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THE: "LIFE "^" : " 



- J1 




Translated by 





PREFACE ....... 








V. THE MISSION ...... 








XL THE HEGIRA (622) ..... 




XV. THE JEWS ... ... 




XIX. ZAINAB .... ... 

XXI. THE HAREM ... ... 



XXIV. THE DEATH (632) .... 
INDEX ....... 















MAHOMET'S exigence is no longer doubted 
by anyone. The most pedantic critic does 
not dream of denying it, although we accept the 
traditional story of the Arab Prophet to-day with many 
reservations. Certainly, hypercriticism sometimes 
oversteps itself (in several different ways, 
unfortunately), but at the present time we surely 
cannot write a life of Mahomet in the same words and 
from the same view-point as the last biographies 
published in France some fifty years ago, like 
Washington Irving's work, for instance. 

In writing this book, I wanted to present a true and 
vivid account drawn from original Arab sources, taking 
into consideration everything recently acquired 
through the researches of specialists. I wanted to 
draw as accurate a portrait of Mahomet as possible, 
as he appears to me after watching him live again 
in the hearts of his adherents and in the tales from 

If every human life is instructive, if each destiny 
is enlightening, is it not particularly touching and 
deeply satisfying to meet one of the men whose message 
gave life to a portion of humanity ? 

The earliest sources of Mahomet's life are the 
Koran, the Sunna (tradition or the hadiths] and the 
Sir a (first biographies). It is chiefly founded on the 
Koran, the most valid source although the most 
restricted. The hadiths of the traditionalists (Bokhari, 



above all) who endeavoured to collect the smallest 
word or recall the least action of the Prophet are 
sometimes accusatory or suspicious ; for, while they 
seriously criticized the isnads (or chain of evidence) 
from the outside they did not judge it thoroughly from 
within. The different schools came to blows over the 
hadithS) a great number of which are obviously forged. 
On the other hand the schools are none too scrupulous 
and credit the master with almost any agreeable idea 
or wise statement. They have also made borrowings 
from the Scriptures, putting into Mahomet's mouth 
many Biblical or evangelical passages, or the 
refutation of certain Christian doctrines. Finally, 
they have attributed to him miracles which were 
clearly apocryphal since he declared himself unable to 
to perform them. 

Though possible, it is not always easy to plough 
through the enormous mass of hadiths^ once we have 
admitted the grounds for falsifi cation. Leaving out 
absurd, suspicious or plagiarized facts, there remain an 
appreciable number of hadiths which, when compared 
to other sources such as records of the times, appear at 
least, likely or very probable, even if not mathematically 
certain ; history is rarely certain except in its outlines. 
" It is contrary to all sane methods," said Snouck 
Hurgronje, " to reject a given tradition when we cannot 
trace the origin that gave birth to it and when there is 
no historic reason to discredit it." 

As for the Sir a or the first biographies of Mahomet 
by Ibn Hisham (following Ibn Is'haq), by Waqidi, 
by Ibn Sa'd ; then by Halabi, Abulfida, Tabari, 
Mas'udi, etc., they share the weaknesses of the 
hadiths which they endeavoured, often with great 
difficulty, to put into logical and chronological order ; 
but in spite of everything, we must realize that they 



are obje<tive and do not conceal to too great an 
extent the faults and indiscretions of the Prophet. 
This is especially true of the first ones. The further 
we go, on the contrary, the more capricious and 
conventional the biographies of Mahomet become. 
It is true that certain thinkers, like Ibn Khaldun in the 
fourteenth century, had original ideas. In our time, the 
modernists have reconstructed to a certain extent the 
Mahometan-Mussulman question, and have presented 
Mahomet somewhat insipidly and idealistically to 
suit the taste of the present day, 1 also speaking of 
Jesus in a flippant manner, which Mahomet 

From the European angle prejudices have for long 
opposed a truly scientific study of the origins of Islam (see 
Part I, Chapter IX), although in the nineteenth century 
a serious effort was made by the following : Caussin 
de Perceval, Muir, Weil, Margoliouth, Noldeke, 
Sprenger, SnouckHurgronje, Dozy. Somewhat more 
recently the works ofCaetani, Lammens, Massignon 
Montet, Casanova, Bell, Huart, Houdas, Marais, 
Arnold, Grimme, Goldziher, Gaudefroy-Demombynes, 
etc., have again brought up the question. Sometimes, 
unfortunately, certain of these specialists fell into the 
error of excessive radicalism. 

I have tried, for my part, to steer a proper course 
between the traditionalist out of date version 
(represented to-day by MM. Dinet and Sliman ben 
Ibrahim) and the hypercritical version of certain 
modern Orientalists. Mostly I have drawn from the 
two extremes, the primitive sources and the modern 
critics. The results of these last are unfortunately 
till incomplete, contradictory and negative as well 

1 Mohammed 'Abdu in Egypt and his disciples ; Syed Ameer 
'AH and the Islamic Review in India. 



(a negative account is worthless and my intention was 
not to pen a succession of dissertations). While one 
Orientalist declares that Mahomet was superior to 
all his contemporaries and at least different from 
them, another decides that he resembled them in 
every way. The one makes him die of apoplexy 
caused by an excessive appetite ; the other of a delirious 
fever due to too lengthy abstinence. In hunting the 
key to this amazing character, " less than a god, more 
than a man, a Prophet," as Lamartine said, the theory 
of epilepsy was brought up ; and in Charcot's time, 
Sprenger's diagnosis was bad hysteria, now out of 
date since Babinski. But M. Massignon declares 
Mahomet to have been well-balanced. They had tried 
to reconstruct chronologically the Suras of the Koran, 
but none of the proposed lists coincides with any 
other. The hanifs were considered authentic thirty 
years ago, then for some time they were discredited 
but were countenanced again after the publication of 
Omayya's verses ; now these are once more the 
object of learned suspicion. It is probable that they 
did really exist and that their " Abrahamism " was 
added later, etc. . . . 

Father Lammens, one of the most erudite of recent 
specialists, is unfortunately one of the most partial 
also. His brilliant and ingenious books are spoiled 
by his antipathy for Islam and its Prophet. Employing 
in this history . hypercritical measures which others 
have used against Christianity, the learned Jesuit says, 
for example, that when tradition agreed with the 
Koran, tradition copied the Koran. How make 
history if two concording witnesses feel they must 
disagree instead of standing by each other ? It is 
very true that the hadiths were occasionally forged 
to explain certain Koranic passages or to make use of 


some true detail more or less arbitrarily ; the hadiths 
also tended to substantiate these facts and accept 
them to the letter. But frequently what they recount 
may be true. 

They say, for instance, that if the hadiths tell 
us Mahomet had a liking for honey, it is because the 
Koran mentions the curative value of this food. We 
might just as well say that because Mahomet liked 
honey and found it healthy he recommended it, 
or moreover that honey in itself is healthy and 
recommendable. Let us suppose this was exact (and 
no logical, ontological or historical impossibility 
prevents us from supposing that Mahomet liked 
honey), for, otherwise, how was the retailer of the 
hadiths able to glean it and relate it without incurring 
the suspicion of the modern scholar ? Be this as it 
may, Father Lammens's works are a precious mine 
from which I have often drawn ; especially his 
" Berceau de I'lslam " and his monograph on Mecca, 
for Chapters II and III, and I am desirous to state 
my debt. 

I have deliberately, however, cast out everything 
obviously false, such as miracles invented two centuries 
after the death of the person to whom they were 
attributed, and many other improbable things. 
Certain doubtful although possible facts have been 
accepted because of their importance, but then I 
have indicated their more or less certain or legendary 
character by careful distinctions. Strange and 
picturesque as this Life may appear, it is in no wise a 
romantic history. All the sayings of the characters 
are scrupulously rendered from the sources. The 
texts from the Koran are in italics. 

I have written Mahomet and not Mohammad. In 
twenty years, perhaps, I shall have given up this 



transcription which dates from the eighteenth century 
and also savours of it. But it seemed that a " Life 
of Abulqasim Mohammad ben 'Abdallah ben 
4 Abdelmottalib el Hashimi " would cause still more 
confusion to-day. 

We must note here that the original name of the 
Prophet was really Qotham, or Zobath, a name 
either changed soon after his birth or at the time of 
his mission into that of Mohammad, " the glorified ", 
a prophetic title more than a first name, properly 
speaking. For a long time he was called Abulqasim, 
the father of Qasim. 






This age is an age of prophets. 

Friday, the i6th day of the month of Rabi' 
(July 2nd), 622, Selman the slave was working 
at the top of a palm-tree in the Oasis of Yathrib. 
His master, a Jew of that town, and proprietor of the 
palm-grove, was below. The temperature was still 
bearable before the torrid noon heat and Selman was 
making use of this early freshness. Unexpectedly 
a cousin of the Jew arrived, in a state of rage. 

" May God curse the children of Qayla ! " he 
cried, referring to the Yathrib Arabs and their common 

" What is the matter now ? " said the Jew. 

" May God destroy all the Banu Qayla ! I do 
not know what has come over them now, but here 
they are at this very moment gathered around a man 
from Mecca who calls himself a Prophet." 

" When I heard that word," Selman said, " I 
began to tremble ; I shook so violently that I was 
afraid of falling out of the tree on to my master's head." 
Thereupon he came down from the tree and approached 
the newcomer. 

" Tell me what you are saying ? " he said. 

But instead, he received a well-directed slap in the 

" Why are you meddling ? " said his master, after 
hitting him. " Mind your own business and go on 
with your work. What has this to do with you ? " 


" Nothing, nothing," stammered the poor slave. 
" I only wanted to hear the details of what he was 

The people of Yathrib had awaited the coming of 
Mahomet for some time. They knew that with his 
own people, the Emigrants (Mohajiruri), he had 
fled from Mecca to seek protection amongst the 
Ansar^ his " aids " or his " supporters ", and faithful 
inhabitants of Yathrib. Later this town became the 
" Prophet's city " (Madinat en Nabi). Each morning 
a certain number of the townspeople went to await 
him in one of the two fields of black, volcanic stones 
encircling the city, and remained there until the 
intense heat drove them back. 

At last Mahomet arrived with his faithful 
companion, Abu Bakr. The two had set out alone, 
hiding in a cave near Mecca for three days and nights 
and then had crossed the desert, escaping all pursuers. 
Accompanied by an enthusiastic crowd, the Prophet 
now approached Yathrib mounted on his camel, El 
Qoswa, with Abu Bakr by his side. Borai'da, the 
Sheikh of a neighbouring tribe, attached his own 
turban to the end of a lance he did not want Mahomet 
to enter the town without a banner and walked in 
front. Over the Prophet's head they held a sort of 
parasol of palm branches and the Ansar went on foot 
brandishing their sabres and lances, announcing the 
coming of Mahomet and promising to defend him 
against all his enemies. Seventy horsemen of the 
Borai'da tribe made up his escort of honour. 

Mahomet was in the full vigour of his manhood, 
robust, of medium height, strongly built, with broad 
chest and massive head ; his hands and feet, although 
large, were fine and sensitive, his skin tanned, his 


cheeks clear without red in them, his hair neither very 
curly nor altogether straight. Although the employ- 
ment of black slaves had already corrupted the purity 
of the Arab race in the towns, this mixture seemed 
scarcely perceptible in Mahomet. 

His hair floated freely to below his ears and his 
moustaches were clipped, a fashion he had adopted 
in order to distinguish himself from the idolaters, who 
wore their hair parted in the centre, and to associate 
himself with the People of the Book, both Jew a.nd 
Christian. His square face with its decided aquiline 
nose, wide mouth, and eyebrows divided by a blue 
vein which sometimes swelled with anger, was framed 
by a tufted and very black beard overhanging his 
lower lip. From under a turban his countenance 
beamed with a majestic radiance at the same time 
impressive and gentle. People felt that this inspired 
man was born to command and they obeyed him 
blindly. The Ansar had found their master. 

They admired everything about him his loftiness 
and his affability, his almost irresistible power, and even 
his misfortunes which brought him to them for shelter. 
These generous and indolent people clung to him all 
the more because he needed their protection and 
accepted beforehand this exile's laws ; for was he not 
their chief as well as their guest ? 

The Prophet stopped for a moment on the out- 
skirts of the town, dismounted and, turning towards 
the north in the direction of Jerusalem, offered up a 
prayer with all the crowd ; although the people there 
begged him to stay, he remounted and rode into 
the centre of Yathrib. 

To prevent his camel from getting into mischief, 
Mahomet loosed its reins and allowed it to wander 
as it liked. It passed through several narrow streets, 


crossed some open spaces swarming with excited 
crowds, and ended by kneeling on the spot where soon 
afterwards the Mosque was erected. Mahomet 
dismounted and came forward, walking quickly 
with firm and vigorous steps, his body bent slightly 
forward as if climbing a mountain. His escort 
scattered the crowd to make room for him but, 
nevertheless, he bowed amiably to everyone, including 
even the little children. When he smiled, he showed 
very white teeth set wide apart. Finally he went into the 
house of a man named Abu Ayyub to wait until they 
built rooms for himself and his wives round about the 
House of Prayer. 

A new State, built solely upon religion, was about 
to be born in Arabia. 

There are men who seek for truth. In this confused 
and dull world where nothing beautiful and good can 
exist which is not mixed with ugliness and evil some- 
how, where free-minded and upright people seem 
exiles, there are still a few beings who cannot live 
without truth. They are wounded painfully by the 
display of injustice and prejudice, and they suffer 
from a particular infirmity : the longing for an un- 
biassed mind and a clear understanding. 

Selman the Persian x searched for truth with all 
his soul. He was born in Fars, was the son of a 
village preacher, they say but Allah is the most 
knowing ! and trained in the Magian religion. He 
tended the sacred fire, never neglecting it or allowing 
it to die out. This holy flame, the symbol of Ormuzd, 
conqueror of the Shades of Ahriman, must blaze 
ceaselessly towards the Iranian skies to bear witness 
day and night to the battle of life and light threatened 

1 Or more exaditly, el Farisi, of Fars. 



by the obscure forces which ' otherwise might lead 
them ultimately to death. 

The pious youth venerated the gods, purified himself 
regularly with cows' urine, and learned the sayings of 
the aged Zoroaster. Yet at times he felt something 
lacking ; his soul was troubled. 

Selman was the friend of a royal prince again 
they say with whom he hunted occasionally. One 
day when they were riding in the desert with their 
greyhounds and falcons they came upon an old man 
seated before a tent of camels' skins, reading a book 
with the tears flowing from his eyes. 

" What is it ? " they asked from their saddles. The 
old man lifted up his streaming eyes and looked at 
them for some time in silence ; then, no doubt finding 
sympathy in their curiosity, he said : 

" Those desiring knowledge should not sit there 
like you. If you would know what is in this book 
get down from your saddles and come hither." The 
hunters dismounted and the stranger continued : 

" This is God's book, written by his command, 
which orders you to obey and worship Him alone. 
In it is said : ' Neither shalt thou commit adultery ; 
neither shalt thou steal ; neither shalt thou covet 
anything that is thy neighbour's.' " 

This book was the Gospel and the old man a 
Nestorian Christian. It was through this channel, 
actually, that Christianity was introduced into Persia. 
It encircled pagan Arabia, with Christians from Yemen 
and Nejran in the South ; those from Abyssinia 
and Egypt in the West ; in the North-west with the 
Byzantines (the Rum) and their Arabian vassals, 
the Ghassanides ; and in the North-east with the 
Christian Arabs from Hira, where reigned a petty 
king of the Lakhmide dynasty, a vassal of the mighty 



Persian Emperor. But then, in the Orient, Christianity 
had greatly degenerated and was divided in the extreme 
by dogmatic disputes in which abstract formulas 
eventually replaced living faith. 

It was introduced into Mesopotamia and Persia 
in the fifth and sixth centuries in Nestorian form, 
while Syria was rather Monophysite. There were 
churches at Nisibis, Kashkar, Jundeshapur and 
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the winter capital of the kings of 
Sassanide Persia. The Christians with their churches 
and monks were more or less tolerated on condition 
that they were discreet and did not excite the jealousy 
of the preachers of the Magian religion. 

Selman was greatly struck at meeting the old man 
with the book. Could it be that a god superior to 
all others gods had deigned to enter into direct 
communication with men ? Had he actually before 
his eyes the authentic traces of this wonderful revelation 
written in symbols on a roll of parchment ? This 
idea struck him, and he was moved by the beauty of a 
morality which looked upon the love of this heretofore 
inaccessible god as all-important, and that of mankind 
as well. 

He got to know other Christians, went to hear them 
sing hymns and pray in their church. Their prayers 
pleased him and he felt a great longing to take part 
in them. " This religion is worth more than ours," 
he said. On one occasion he stayed in the church 
until the evening, forgetting to run on an errand for 
his father, to whom he confided his trouble. 

" There's nothing good about this religion," said 
his father ; " ours is descended from our forefathers 
and is worth more than any other." 

But as the young man was unconvinced his father 
saw to it that he did not see his new friends again ; 



and they say that at the same time the king noticed 
similar tendencies in the prince, Selman's companion. 
For, in the midst of the feast, had he not been seized 
with an extraordinary idea and refused to eat the 
flesh of the victims offered up on the altars ? The 
king was furious and exiled the monk and his associates. 

Selman now had but one idea : to follow the out- 
casts. Certainly he had read in their book that, if 
need be, a man might leave his father and mother to 
search for the truth. He had heard it said that this 
religion, so attractive to him, was to be found 
flourishing in Syria, so, deciding to go there, he 
profited by a caravan of whose existence he was 
informed by the remaining Christians of the district. 
Once in Damascus, Selman looked for the most 
learned doctor to instruct him. The bishop was 
pointed out. 

" I am a man with a leaning towards your religion," 
Selman said to him. " I would like to live near you, 
learn and pray with you, and work in your church." 

The bishop welcomed Selman, who was soon 
cruelly disillusioned. His master was grasping and 
deceitful He asked the people to give alms and 
instead of dividing them amongst the poor he hoarded 
the money for himself in a secret place. 

When this bishop died they prepared a sumptuous 
funeral for him, but the young Persian's conscience 
was so shocked by such injustice that he could not refrain 
from telling them about the dead man's dishonesty. 
The angry people stoned the corpse instead. 

Selman attached himself to a new bishop and this 
time he was satisfied. He had never before met a 
man so detached from the world or who prayed so 
perfectly. He loved the bishop and remained with 
him for a long time. In his desire to emulate him he 


practised so many mortifications that one day his 
master said to him : 

" Be more merciful to yourself and lighten the 
burden you have imposed. Incautious mortifications 
are sometimes more dangerous than useful." 

" Your words have sunk into my heart," said 
Selman, " but tell me which in itself is better : that 
which I have been doing until now or that which you 
tell me to do ? " 

" Without a doubt, what you have been doing." 

" Then, let me continue." 

On the whole, Selman was a man who aimed at 

He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and shortly 
after this his master fell seriously ill. Seeing him 
about to die, Selman said : 

" I have loved you the most amongst men. Now 
that death is about to separate us tell me of some 
devout and enlightened person with whom I can live 
as I have lived with you." 

" By Almighty God," said the dying bishop, " I 
do not know many really devout men. All the devout 
men are dead except one who lives in Mosul. Go 
and seek him when I am no more." 

Selman went to Mosul and lived with this chosen 
master for some time. But it was not long before 
this holy and aged man also showed signs of 
approaching death. So Selman said to him : 

" The Bishop of Damascus advised me on his 
death-bed to come to you, assuring me that you were 
like himself. I came and I have lived here with you ; 
now God's decision is at hand. To whom can I turn 
when you are no more ? " 

This dying man then sent him to another monk 
whom he found as devout and good as the two pre- 



ceding ones, and who, when his time came, died, 
telling Selman of another ascetic who lived in the 
country of the Rum. So Selman went to live amongst 
the Byzantines. He remained in this country attending 
to certain business there. 

At the death, however, of his last master, he resolved 
to return to Arabia, and with this object in view joined 
some Arab traders of the Banu Kilab. The caravan 
crossed the desert, the country of Midian, reaching 
the fertile Oasis of Wadil Qora. But once arrived the 
traitorous Banu Kilab, ready to make money out of 
everything and even sell men (like their ancestors 
whom the brothers of Joseph, Jacob's son, encountered 
long before), sold the unfortunate Selman to a Jew 
of the Banu Qorai'dha who lived in Yathrib, Medina 
of the future. 

The poor Persian was conducted into this town, 
bought by a cousin of the first Jew, and lived in slavery, 
working to improve his master's palm-groves. He 
attended to the camel that turned the wheel bringing 
water from the subsoil into the well-arranged little 
trenches distributed amongst the various proprietors. 
Water was the most precious of all subterranean 
treasures, more valued than gold or silver ; the 
irrigation had to be continuous to prevent the soil 
from "becoming barren from the salty deposits, and 
constant watch was kept over the camel at the wheel 
and the leather bottles, trickling with water as they 
were carried up and down. 

The Oasis of Yathrib was exceptionally rich and 
fertile and the moisture was continually renewed 
by the Wadi Idham's irrigation trenches, by the wells, 
by the canals and the stores of water collected in the 
volcanic rocks, whose disintegration kept the earth 
rich and fertile fertility paid for dearly in other 

1 1 


respects, for the fever of Yathrib was celebrated 
throughout Arabia. Everyone, new arrivals most 
of all, paid tribute to this pernicious malaria. Often 
the excrement of neighbouring herds leaked into the 
ponds and wells, and their stagnant contents took on a 
disquieting yellow colour resembling henna. Even 
the camels fell sick when they drank it. The stream 
of Bothan generally flowed with fetid water. 

The Jews had set up an immense agricultural 
activity in Yathrib and the palm-groves were greatly 
improved. Living also in the Oasis were Arabs from 
Yemen, who finally outnumbered the disciples of 
Moses. The different tribes were divided into two 
confederations, the Aws and the Khazraj (these were 
the most numerous) and were particularly allied 
to the Jewish tribes of the Qoraidha, the Nadhir and 
the Qainoqa. 

Although oppressed by an unhealthy climate these 
sedentary Arabs of Yathrib were rather refined, though 
indolent. They devoted themselves entirely to agricul- 
ture and had neither the enterprising spirit nor the 
commercial daring of the Qoraishites of Mecca, 
the other important town of the Hijaz, prosperous 
because of its financial speculating and caravan trade. 
The Aws and the Khazraj ridiculed the Qoraishites 
and at the same time admired them. They jested about 
these grasping, gold-stuffed bankers of Mecca who, 
in return, laughed at the heavy cultivators of Yathrib 
riddled with malaria and oppressed by Jewish 

Selman worked thus for several years in the Jew's 
service. He was inconsolable at having left civilized 
Syria with its holy Christian preachers. The narrow 
nationalism of the Jews shocked him no less than the 
idolatry of the Arabs who worshipped a lump of stone 



in vague human form, naming it Man at and pouring 
blood over it periodically. Yet, ten years after the 
Persian's arrival a strange religious movement 
disturbed the town. There was talk of a Prophet 
newly come to Mecca, who wished to destroy the 
idols, spoke familiarly with God and his angels and 
recited rhythmic verses composed with such perfection 
of style that many wept upon hearing them. He had 
threatened the unfaithful with punishments from 
heaven, talked of the end of the world and the 
apocalyptic terrors thereof, as if all this soon must 
befall ; he had spoken of infernal torments and 
paradisical delights in such terms as to unhinge the mind. 

This Prophet, they reported, was very badly 
received by his compatriots. The Qoraishites of 
Mecca laughed at him and regarded him as a fool or 
madman, while plotting his destruction. He might 
come to Yathrib for protection, perhaps. Several 
men of this town, having gone to Mecca on the 
traditional pilgrimage to the holy Ka'ba, saw him and 
returned enthusiastic ; many, it appeared, had 
solemnly declared their fidelity and were hoping for 
his coming. Soon, however, there was more precise 
news ; for the Prophet sent his missionaries to Yathrib 
with instructions to give out his message, spread 
abroad and establish his religion. 

One of these missionaries, Mus'ab ben 'Omai'r, 
lodged with As 'ad ben Zurara, a townsman of 
Yathrib, and gathered the new converts in his house 
or in the enclosure belonging to Dhafar's son, 
although some people protested. 

Among the malcontents were two important persons, 
Sa'd ben Mo'adh and his friend, Osai'd ben Khozai'r ; 
the latter went one day to the enclosure where Mus'ab 
was proselytizing and said to him bitterly : 



" What are you doing amongst us ? Ensnaring the 
weak ? We hardly like that. If you value your life 
you will do well to go." 

" Sit down with us and listen," said Mus'ab gently. 
" Do not condemn without knowing, but judge for 
yourself. If what you are about to hear displeases 
you, we will part willingly." 

" Well, so be it ! I am listening," grumbled 
Osai'd, knitting his brows, although a little appeased 
by Mus'ab's gentleness. And after driving his 
pike into the earth, he sat cross-legged on the ground 
near it. Mus'ab was in the centre of the circle of 
listeners who were surrounded by another circle of 
long lances and thick-set javelins. 

" Bismillah er rahman er rahim" they said in 
beautiful, harmonious prose, with rhymes or 
assonances. " In the name of God, merciful without 
bounds, and compassionate." 

They sang the verses gravely but in so easy and 
majestic a style that the Arabs, so sensitive to all 
music and poetry, chanted in unison, giving the effect 
of a great breath from another world where nothing 
existed but grandeur and poetry. 

Alhamdulillahi rabbi'l 'alamin. 

Er rahman er rahim, 

Malikiyawm ed din, 

lyaka na'budu wa iya'ka natta l tn. . . . 

Praise be to God, the Lord of all creatures, 

The most merciful and compassionate, 

The king of the day of judgment ! 

Thee do we worship, and of thee do we beg assistance. . . . 

The Arabs' impressions are extremely vivid. These 
tall, slender, angular people, burnt by the sun, scarred 
by the winds filled with fine particles of sand, bathed 


in hard, dry air, are intensely sensitive even though 
plunged in the daily battle against the pitiless elements. 
Their reactions are rapid and violent. Sensual or 
poetic emotions enter their souls like a sling. 

Osai'd did not hesitate, nor did he think of 
combating his enthusiasm. After hearing certain 
passages from the Koran and learning the elements of 
the new Prophet's religion from Mus'ab, he declared 
himself converted to Islam, and gave himself to God. 
He at once performed his first ablutions and, pointing 
upwards, bore witness to heaven : 

" La ilaha ill' Allah. Mohammad rasoul Allah " 
" There is but one God, Allah, and Mahomet is 
his Prophet." 

In his enthusiasm he now thought only of gaining 
new adherents. 

" Sa'd must also be conquered," he said, " and he 
will influence his followers amongst the Aws." 

And the next day Sa c d ben Mo'adz was conducted to 
Mus'ab, who taught in As'ad's house. He began by 
abusing this man (who was also his cousin), reproaching 
him for lodging strangers with hidden intrigues. But 
he, too, was struck with the gentleness of this reciter 
of the Koran, and the splendour of the verses. 

" Children of 'Abdelashhal ! " he cried, on leaving, 
" what am I to you ? " 

" Your are our sayyid^ our chief," they replied, 
you are the wisest and most eminent amongst us." 

Well ! Then I swear not to speak with any 
amongst you until he believes in Allah and his 

And so the new religion spread little by little 
throughout Yathrib, but not without some resistance, 
however. Among the Aws, Abu Qa'is ben el Aslat, 
the poet, kept up his part for idolatry by ridiculing 



the newly-converted Mahometans in his verses and 
by praising the religion of his ancestors. 

c Amr ben el Jomuh, a respected old man, owned a 
wooden statue of the goddess Man at. One night 
some young men of the Banu Salama converted to 
Islam broke into his house, seized the idol and 
plunged it head downward into the privy. The next 
day the indignant Amr washed the statue and put 
it back in place. But the wild young men renewed 
the exploit several times and, finally, the old man, 
cursing the profaners but astonished that fire from 
heaven had not consumed them, hooked a naked 
sabre into the idol's neck. . . . 

" If you have the least power, defend yourself now ! " 
he said. 

The young men returned once more and, replacing 
the sabre with the corpse of a dog, threw the whole 
thing into the well. And suddenly <Amr was 
converted to Islam and wrote a poem to shame the 
powerless idol. 

" By Almighty God, had you been a Divinity you 
would not now be in a well with a dead dog," he said. 
" Oh ! your woeful impotence has been found 

The monotheistic Jews would have had a great 
religious influence had they not made certain 
reservations in this respect, keeping the Bible nearly 
secret and considering the divine revelations a little 
like the personal property of their race. (The Koran 
censures them for this.) These Jews, while living 
exactly the same lives as merchants, agriculturists 
and warriors, speaking their language and writing 
poetry with a similar virtuosity, scorned these amiable, 
uncultivated ummiyun Arabs, unprovided with the 
revealed Book, who strongly reciprocated the 



sentiment. Still, their presence at Yathrib prepared 
the way for Islam. They had in their train certain 
men of intelligence to settle questions. 

The chief of the Aws-Allah abandoned himself 
to a kind of asceticism and preached a new religion 
made up of Paganism and Judaism ; he noticed with 
displeasure the opposition of the Mahometans. The 
Arabs were more and more confronted with religious 
problems in spite of their lack of mysticism. 
Christianity encircled the peninsula and penetrated a 
certain number of the tribes. Along with the grains 
and Syrian stuffs, the caravans brought traces of ideas 
and customs from Rum into the centre of the Hijaz. 
Even the poets began to speak of one God. Omayya 
ben Abi's-salt sang of the delights of paradise in 
green gardens and of the infernal horrors. 

The name of hanifs was given, so it seemed, to certain 
pious persons dissatisfied with the rude idolatry and 
who, without knowing exactly what, were searching 
for a more genuine faith. Among the Christians 
of the Orient the expectation of the approaching end 
of the world, so deep-rooted and apprehensive in the 
early documents, had not disappeared. Eschatological 
ideas prevailed even more among the ascetics of the 
desert with whom the Arabs had direct dealings. In 
the north of the peninsula certain Christian sects 
seemed to be awaiting the advent of a prophet 
heralding the end of time. This belief had even over- 
taken pagans like Zohair, the father of the poet 
Ka'b who died before the coming of Mahomet. 

The poet of Tai'f, Omayya ben Abi's-salt, had 
read the Judeo-Christian books; he scorned the idols, 
drank no wine, and wore a hair-shirt. He would 
have been greatly pleased to receive the calling of 
prophet, but waited in vain. One day when he was 

17 c 


travelling in Syria with the caravan of Abu Sofyan, 
the rich Meccan Chief, he entered a Christian church 
and talked for a long time with the preacher. When 
he came out his companions noticed a certain emotion 
in his face. He continued on the road with them and 
when their business was finished and they were 
returning by the same route, Omayya again went 
into the church. He came out, this time, quite 

" What has come over you ? " asked the sceptic 
Abu Sofyan. " Why are you delaying us with your 
fuss about monks ? " 

" Let me be! Let me be! " murmured the poet ; 
he continued : " The preacher revealed to me that 
Christ returned six times and that we are approaching 
the hour. When he talked to me first I was moved, 
for I greatly desired to be the chosen one for the work 
of the Lord and I feared that the mission had escaped 
me. So with troubled spirit, I watched for signs. 
Then, this time, when the preacher said to me : 
* The prophet is come,' I was in despair." 

Omayya never forgave Mahomet ; all his life he 
fought against him with his satires. Had he a rather 
innocent mind ? While he looked upon the sacred 
mission as a personal honour and coveted it with a 
feeling which, though perhaps noble, was not unmixed 
with vanity, we shall see Mahomet receiving Omayya 
trembling and asking himself if he would have the 
strength to fill it. After all, say the commentators, 
Omayya could not have been chosen, for being a 
poet, he must have been inspired by a spirit (a jinn\ 
as the Prophet was by an .angel. 

Selman reflected about all these things. Had not 
his last master said to him, on his death-bed, there in 
the country of the Rum : 



" This age is an age of Prophets. A prophet 
will be sent." 

And so when Mahomet reached Yathrib (Medina) 
Selman was soon amongst his most fervent adherents. 

Between his shoulder-blades near the neck, 
Mahomet had a sort of tumour or round excrescence 
of flesh as large as a Byzantine dinar with a tuft of 
hairs in it. He had refused to have it removed by a 
doctor and the people looked upon it as the " Seal 
of Prophecy ". Selman very much wanted to see this 
sign. One day when Mahomet was sitting out of 
doors with some friends the Persian approached and 
greeted him, seating himself behind the Prophet. 
Mahomet, divining what Selman desired and saying 
nothing, threw back his mantle showing his naked 
back. Selman wept and kissed the Seal of Prophecy. 

As a slave Selman could not accompany this man, 
who was now the centre of his life, step by step 
as he wished ; but at last he became one of the 
principal members of the new sect. Mahomet 
finally advised him to free himself, as he could do by 
cultivating three hundred palm-trees for his master ; 
his Mahometan brothers helped him, and the Prophet 
donated an ingot of gold to complete the sum. 

What, then, was this man whose flight 1 from 
Mecca to Medina began a new era for a large portion 
of humanity ? 

1 The Hegira : Mahomet's flight, 622 years after Christ. 



Every Arab is a tradesman, 
and sometimes a thief. 


A T about the end of the sixth century of the Christian 
*"*- era, an army advanced against Mecca. Abraha, 
the Abyssinian viceroy of Yemen, came to seek 
vengeance for a profanation of the Temple of San c a 
by an Arab of the Hijaz ; the Christians of the 
southern peninsula had hoped to make a centre of 
pilgrimage of this temple to rival the antique Ka'ba. 

As we have said, Christianity had actually spread 
throughout southern Arabia in spite of the opposition 
of the Jews and the idolaters. At the beginning of 
the sixth century a Jewish king, Dhu Nowas, had 
fought the Christians of Najran and had burned, they 
say, twenty thousand of them in an enormous cave 
transformed into a furnace. The Byzantine Emperor, 
Justinius I, was not able himself to travel so far to 
avenge the faith, but persuaded the Negus of Abyssinia 
to invade Yemen. The black Christians of Africa, 
having crossed the straits, destroyed the remains of 
the Himyarite Empire, formerly so prosperous and 

The Negus ordered his representative to kill one 
third of the male population, to carry into Ethiopia 
one-third of the women as captives, and to lay waste 
one-third of the Yemenite territory. The ruthlessness 
with which the black chief carried out this task made 
him unpopular ; Abraha, one of his lieutenants, saw 



that he could easily fill his place, so killed him in single 
combat. The furious Negus swore that he would 
plant his feet upon the soil of Yemen and cut off 
Abraha's hair ; but this man, wittily enough, shaved 
his own head and sent his locks together with a bag 
of Yemenite earth to the Negus, who was thus 
exonerated from his vow and pacified. Abraha became 
an almost independent viceroy. The holy Bishop 
Gregentius drew up a code, converted many Jews and 
idolaters, and the Abyssinian monarch, now firmly 
established in southern Arabia, was ready to march 
to the conquest of the Hijaz, Mecca and the Ka'ba. 

Abraha advanced on his elephant with a well- 
organized army which easily outnumbered the 
Qoraishites ; he camped in front of the city, and the 
frightened townspeople sought shelter in the hills. 

" The shouts of these thousands of soldiers, dark 
as a storm-cloud, deafened the steeds, and their stench 
held their adversaries at bay. Demons as numerous 
as the grains of dust that dried the new-budding 
greenery " said a poet. 

Abraha never entered Mecca for, they say, his 
elephant refused of its own will to advance, and the 
army was decimated by an epidemic of smallpox 
(legend has it that the pustules contained stones thrown 
down from heaven by mysterious birds, the abdbtt\ 
and turned back. 

This year was called the " Year of the Elephant ", 
and the Arabs based their calendar upon it. In all 
likelihood Mahomet was born a little later. It marked 
the decadence of the Abyssinian power in Arabia. 
Two years after this, the Persians drove the blacks 
out of Yemen at the very time that they themselves 
were expelled by the Islamites. 

Although the Qoraishites had so little to do with 



Abraha's downfall, they prided themselves on i 
called themselves " the heroes ". Mecca was 
more than ever the great centre of commerce 

Certainly it was not a very enviable place to lr 
" If Mecca could stir up longings you woul 
Himyarite princes hurrying there at the head of 
warriors. Winter and summer are alike intok 
there. Nowhere in Mecca do the springs gush 
as at Jowatha. " Not a blade of grass to rest th 
... no hunting . . . Instead, only mercl 
that most contemptible of all professions ..." 

That is how the negro poet, El Haiqatan, depicl 

No tree worthy of the name spread its shadows 
long ago they had cut down the shrubs near the Te 
of the Ka'ba, in spite of the superstitious re 
attached to them. Neither were there any surrour 
gardens or orchards as at Damascus or Fez tc 
encircled by their pleasant, fresh greenery ; only 
spiney bushes with leaves like spikes grew on the 

Summer in Mecca was almost intolerable, 
rich went when they could to spend it at Tai'f i: 
Thaqifite Mountains, where excellent grapes 
cultivated ; this was the only spot in Arabia v 
water froze in winter. 

The sun made the large, black flag- 
surrounding the Ka'ba so hot that they had t 
sprinkled for the ritual, barefooted procession ; bu 
stones dried immediately. When the first Mahom 
were tortured it was quite sufficient to stretch then 
naked on the ground. The faithful, coura 
enough to endure this torrid heat, were called bli 
by Mahomet, and meritorious. Mecca suffered, 


iselves on it and 
Mecca was now 
f commerce and 

place to live in. 
s you would see 
the head of their 
alike intolerable 
rings gush forth 
ss to rest the eye 
only merchants, 

.ons ..." 

jatan, depicted it. 

its shadows, and 

near the Temple 

jrstitious respect 

any surrounding 

s or Fez to-day, 

nery ; only some 

grew on the arid 

ntolerable. The 

it at Tai'f in the 

;nt grapes were 

in Arabia where 

lack flag-stones 
they had to be 
Dcession ; but the 
irst Mahometans 
stretch them out 
iful, courageous 
;re called blessed 
:ca suffered, too, 


from lack of wat< 
Zemzem was irre, 
wells were far-off 
came they drew 
using any recepta 
then it was not an 
heat, deathly win 
geographer, El ]V1 

Winter was no 
the bog. The cit) 
meeting at the 
the centre, when 
(mesjicT) was situate 
filled with the wa 
turf or trees or c 
them back. 

The square of 
to-day, received j 
steep passes ; the 
through the slopi 
left a sea of mu 
The wells of Zerm 
once they were Jos' 
had to be remov 
obliged to climb i 
ladder. It happei 
the godly Ibn Zi 
his daily tawdf (tt 
Ka'ba), made then 

On several oca 
famous Black Stoi 
sized man. The 
after being desire 
inundations in the 
was built of burnt 


ack of water ; for that of the noted wells of 
m was irregular and often bitter. The other 
were far-off and unsafe. When the pilgrims 
they drew water with the greatest difficulty, 
any receptacles they could lay hands on, and 
was not an easy task to fill them. " Suffocating 
leathly winds, clouds of flies ..." said the 
pher, El Maqdisi. 

ter was no more agreeable after the furnace, 
*. The city was crescent-shaped with its points 
at the gorges of Mt. Qo'aiqi'an, while 
ntre, where the Ka'ba in its sacred square 
) was situated, formed an enclosed hollow which 
vith the waters from the torrential rains : no 

trees or deep soil gripped the rock to hold 

square of the Ka'ba, much smaller than it is 

received all the water disgorged from the 
>asses ; the flood carried everything before it 
h the sloping streets and, when it subsided, 

sea of mud floating with rubbish and filth, 
slls of Zemzem were filled in several times, and 
icy were lost for several generations. The mud 
i be removed in carts and the people were 
1 to climb up to the door of the temple with a 
It happened on just such a day of rain that 
dly Ibn Zubair, determined not to abandon 
ly tawdf (the seven processional rounds of the 
, made them, they say, by swimming, 
several occasions the water rose as far as the 
i Black Stone, or to the height of a medium- 
nan. The Ka'ba was reconstructed each time 
icing destroyed or damaged by the different 
tions in the course of centuries. (Formerly it 
ilt of burnt brick ; now it is of freestone.) 



By a distressing paradox, when the rains and torrent 
everywhere else in the peninsula brought blessings, 
covering the soil with greenery, washing the salty 
sheathes from the plants, freeing the land from want 
for months to come, at Mecca the water only caused 
devastation. It destroyed the houses, killed the 
animals, carrying with it the unburied carrion, and 
spreading temporary epidemics which added to the 
endemic ophthalmia. The movements of the pilgrims 
sometimes gave rise to smallpox and the plague. 
Hygienic conditions were odious. Even to-day in 
Mecca the people empty the contents of the latrines 
outside the doors of their houses and cover them with 
a little earth ; the pilgrimages occasion very high 

Nevertheless the Qoraishites of Mecca were 
prosperous, intelligent, attached to their city and 
biassed in its favour. What advantage did they find 
there ? Commerce. " It is only because of commerce 
that we remain," they said when Mahomet made 
life particularly difficult for them. 

These former nomads, so lately settled there, 
admirably understood and made the best of a 
privileged situation in a place so little favoured in all 
other respects. They succeeded in making it a sort 
of Venice of the desert ; their caravans crossed it in 
every direction between Yemen and Syria. 

" Every Arab is a tradesman," as Strabo said, 
" and sometimes a thief," he added. Amongst all 
the Arabs the Qoraishites had the greatest sense of 
trade ; they based their commercial operations on a 
financial and banking organization extremely peculiar. 
The first merchants mentioned in the Bible are the 
Arabs ; Isaiah and Ezekiel enumerate the pro- 
visions that they carried into Syria and they may be 



regarded as the first exploiters of international 

The ancient Romans were unable to do without 
them. Horace mentions the treasures of Arabia 
and the trade which made the inhabitants wealthy. 
Yemen of antiquity can be compared to Peru of more 
modern times. The precious metals, the silks and 
perfumes of the Orient cost the luxurious Romans 
dear, and Pliny remarked complainingly : " tfantae 
nobis delidae constant . . . " 1 upon paying many 
sefferces to the Bedouins for these things. 

The commercial prosperity of Arabia in general and 
of Mecca in particular depended on the route to India. 
The Arabs were rich or poor according to whether 
the road passed by the North, by Mesopotamia, 
Persia, Afghanistan, or by Yeman, the Persian Gulf 
and the Peninsula. These alterations took place 
several times as the centuries passed, following the 
changes in the Government. 

At the beginning of the seventh century long wars 
between the Greeks and the Persians favoured the 
trade of Mecca. The city of the Qoraishites became 
a great cross-road between the Orient and the 
Mediterranean world and between black Africa and 
Byzantine Syria. Moreover, round about it were held 
periodically a series of markets which stimulated home 
commerce, like the fairs in the surrounding neighbour- 
hood of 'Okadh. Pilgrimage and commerce, religion 
and business, were intimately connected in this 

The Byzantines could not do without the Bedouin 

caravans which brought precious stones and spices 

from the mysterious Indies, skins, metals, exotic 

stuffs, silks from China for the garments of emperors, 

1 " So dear cost our delights. . . ." 


courtesans and priests ; the perfumes of Magian kings 
and incense from Yemen and African gums for the 
churches and palaces. The Arabs also brought. into 
Syria dates from the Hijaz and Nedj. They carried 
back grain, dried raisins, oil ; linens, cotton and 
silk materials, bordered, striped and flowered ; 
manufactured products and even arms fine Damascus 
blades and embossed shields of which Byzantium, the 
protector and friend of monopolies, had forbidden the 
exportation but which the Bedouins smuggled through. 

The arrival and departure of caravans was a great 
event in the life of Mecca. When the arrival of one 
was announced a sort of delirium seized the people 
and they ran in front of it shouting and beating drums. 
Mahomet finally forbade this custom to discourage 
speculation and the buying-up of the wares by the 
first arrivals. He had trouble in suppressing this 
commercial fever and the Koran gives us the echo 
of his bitterness in describing how, on the arrival of 
a caravan, he was deserted by his entire audience 
while preaching. 

Besides the small, private caravans, the Qoraishites 
had two large and regular ones in summer to Yemen 
and in the winter to Syria. These great expeditions 
were an event interesting the entire population 
because of a very perfect system of credit which allowed 
the poorest people to join in a subscription for as 
little as a half-dinar, earning at least fifty and sometimes 
a hundred per cent. 

Actually, the vast operation of these armies of 
2,000 or 3,000 camels carrying gold, silver, leather 
and precious goods, escorted by 200 or 300 men, 
conveyed hope to the whole town from across the 
sands, the steppes and the reddish stones of the desert. 

Mecca was a plutocratic, commercial republic. 



The Government there was not well-defined and the 
different clans would have rebelled against any 
individual supremacy or any absolute organized power. 

The council of notables, or the mala, an assembly 
without fixed mandate, always exercised a general 
directorship. For important cases they met at the 
Council House or the dar en nadwa, and the vote was 
decided by the magic of eloquence. This House 
was open to notables, old men, and to rich plebians 
like Ibn Jodh'a'n the Tai'mite, formerly horse-dealer 
and slave-trader ; to good speakers, even if young 
and poor like 'Otba ben Rabi'a, and to those who 
indulged in fitting answers and cutting replies. 

Abu Sofyan was endowed with the following gifts : 
nobility (he belonged to the Ommayad clan), wealth 
(he was foremost amongst the merchant-bankers), 
political judgment and understanding of the common 
good (he possessed to the highest degree what they 
called Him} ; he had obtained there a powerful position 
and a real supremacy. 

Bat'ha, the aristocratic quarter, was in the flat 
part of the town in whose hollow was the square 
of the Ka ba, the meeting-place of a number of small 
streets named after the clans. The famous bankers 
of the noble family of the Ommayads lived there, as 
did the wealthy Makhzumites who specialized in 
the trade of slaves and woven materials ; the Nawfal ; 
the Asad ; the Zohra ; the Sahm ; the c Abdeddar, 
defenders of the banner ; the 'Adi and the Tai'm, less 
noble and less respected (the clans of the future caliphs 
Abu Bakr and c Omar) ; the Hashimites, Mahomet's 
family so ill-favoured by wealth, however, in spite of 
the r6le that Hashim and 'Abdelmottalib played as 
guardians of the Ka'ba and dispensers of water to 



Round about this central quarter, in the sloping 
streets, lived the common people without rights or 
fortune but who furnished the soldiers. Last of all, 
on the outskirts of the city lodged the rabble of 
" meteques ", refugees and the artisan slaves. 1 

Bat'ha and particularly the mejlis of the Ka'ba were 
the important business centres. Here the illustrious 
Qoraishites came to spend the evening, to talk, to 
hear or to tell the news, discuss the interests of the 
city and to plan their business. Abu Sofyan, Abu 
Jahl 'Abdelmottalib, the 'Otba, Walid ben Moghira, 
Safwan ben Omayya, made a habit of sitting before the 
temple door, their buttocks on their heels, wrapped 
magnificiently in their ridas. 

Here, the great summer and winter caravans were 
arranged ; here, they heard the news of the Persians' 
last victory over the Rum, of Chosroes' (Kesra's) 
triumph or of Caesar's (Qaisar's) defeat ; here, they 
listened to Mahomet's first sermons, dumb-founded 
and then furious ; here they framed his excommunica- 
tion ; here they were informed of the astonishing victory 
of Badr ; and it was here, one .day, that they watched 
his triumphant return to his own land after many 
misfortunes and saw him seize the gold ring of the 
Ka'ba and proclaim his forgiveness. 

From this Bourse and Palais Royal of Mecca they 
could wander to the distant quarters near the mountain 
gorges where ravines formed the streets ; there the 
suqs swarmed like humming bee-hives with mixed 
crowds and the women-singers accompanied their 
sharp melodies on little square timbrels (defs) ; there 
the shopkeepers questioned the timid Bedouins in 
the hope of drawing out of them some of the dirhems 

1 Meteques : a name given in Athens to foreigners living 
permanently there. 



knotted carefully in the corners of their tunics. The 
money-changers congregated in this quarter to weigh 
their rough ingots and variously stamped coins of 
Greek, Persian or Himyarite origin, many of them 
old and worn, to measure gold-dust by the bushel, 
to count dinars bearing the portrait of the King of 
the Rum, then at a premium in Arabia. The poets 
compared the lustre of their ladies' cheeks to these 
bright pieces. 

Here lived the hangers-on (halif) of the patricians; 
the "apaches" (khali^ banished for some crime from 
their tribes ; travelling-pedlars showed their wares in 
improvised booths or under palm-leaf tents, for they 
could not afford to rent the expensive shops of the 
town. Many foreigners either lived here or passed 
through, amongst them Jews, but mostly Christians 
of different sects having lost touch with their 
orthodox centres. Mahomet found this plebian crowd 
instructive and gained many of his first adherents 
from amongst them. 

Besides this intelligent activity, in everyone was to 
be found the same fever for work, for money and for 
speculation from the merchant with the open-air 
stall and the small shopkeeper to the important business 
man controlling many secretaries, whose ledgers, 
embellished with seals and skilful handwriting, called 
forth much derision from the ignorant Bedouins. 
These people did not allow their money to lie idle ; 
it must circulate and draw interest whether in millions 
or in a few drachmas. No risk was too great for them, 
no sort of dealing unknown to people like 
'Abderrahman ben 'Awf " who could find a treasure 
under every stone"; to Howai'tib ben 'Abedl'ozza, 
suddenly become rich because of the accidental death 
of fifty members of his clan ; to Safwan ben Omayya 



who marketed arms and silver both wrought and 
unwrought ; to Walid ben Moghira who, to advertise 
his draper's shop, annually provided the great veil 
of the Ka'ba ; to Abu Ohaiha to whom the bank 
subscribed thirty thousand dinars at one time for 
one caravan : (this only represented a portion of 
his wealth, for he had other property at Tai'f and 
plantations and mines in the Bedouin country ; his 
daughters were supposed to be the richest heiresses 
in Mecca . . .). These people knew how to take 
risks and no kind of business was foreign to them. 

These bold speculators also enjoyed the pleasures 
of life. Often, after their rough journeys, they gave 
themselves up to pleasure and cheerfully spent their 
enormous profits. Streams of wine flowed in the great 
houses of Bat 'ha as well as in the apaches' hovels on 
the edge of the town. 'Abdallah ben Jodh'an owned 
two girl-singers celebrated for their voices and for 
their beauty, whom he called " 'Abdallah's two 
cicadas ". Once when drunk he gave Omayya a 
black eye but, as an indemnity, presented this crony 
with the two girls and a thousand dirhems. El 'Aci 
ben Hisham carried his passion for gaming so far 
as to play himself and temporarily lost his freedom to 
Abu Lahab's benefit. Credit was favourable to 
commerce, but speculation brought about crises. Ibn 
Jodh'dn, when most lavish, sent out town-criers to 
invite all the people to his feasts whereas at other 
times he had to suspend payment. The wealthy 
El 'Aci on one occasion could not collect four thousand 
dirhems on credit. 

They speculated on the rate of exchange and the 
fluctuations of money. They gambled on the rise and 
fall of foreign produce, on the arrival and departure 
of caravans, on the uncertainty of the harvests or 



crops, on the unripe dates (the Koran forbids this), 
on the herds and the spoils of war. They monopolized 
the cereals and sold fictitious commodities. 

Notwithstanding his admiration for his intelligent 
compatriots, Mahomet was obliged to condemn 
all loans on interest as usury, and also all limited 
transactions and trading in moneys. At the age of 
twenty-five he was one of the founders of a league, 
the hilf el Jodhul, for the protection of the down- 
trodden and the correction of agreements. The 
members feasted at Ibn Jodh'an's house and then 
poured the water of Zemzem over the corner-stone 
of the Ka'ba, taking oath as they drank together. 

The poor Bedouins were really a prey to dishonest 
buyers, untrustworthy agents, bankrupts, suspicious 
guides offering themselves as intermediaries to " the 
secret of making money without capital ". They 
were the victims of usurers who made them sign 
notes for two dinars, only giving them one ; who 
knew " seventy-three tricks to vary usury " and 
extracted double and treble interest from them by 
multiplying the payments and increasing the interest 
when the payments were not made. 

Sometimes the debtors, so hard to seize, got their 
own back, and ridiculed these citizens in their turn, 
denouncing the Qoraishites' greediness and declaring 
that according to etymology, Qoraish meant " shark ". 

" Ah ! " jeered the Bedouin poet, Abu't Tamahan, 
" if my camel could hear the tricks of trade, what 
a lot she could gain in Mecca by exchanging green 
grass for dried grass ! " 



Throughout the centuries, we have the sight 

Of those who were the fir sJ to lead 

Being pushed into the sloughs of death, 

And rescued never. 

I saw my people the great, the petty, all 

Flow with them, and I said : 

Where go my people, I in turn, shall go. 


A T the beginning of the summer the young Amina, 
^^ of Mecca, was looking for a nurse for her two 
months' old son. She had just lost her husband, the 
handsome 'Abdallah, old 'Abdelmottalib's son, who 
had died at the age of 25, leaving the orphan a small 
inheritance, five camels, some sheep, and an old negress. 

During the season many Bedouin women came to 
Mecca to find foster-children, the offspring of rich 
people in preference. None of them was anxious to 
look after an orphan from a rather poor family. 
Halima, however, the wife of a shepherd, of the Banu 
Sa c d, accepted the young Mahomet because she had 
not found another baby and took him away to her 
tribe in the fresh mountains, some stages south of 
Mecca towards Tai'f. 

The child lived with her for five years playing with 
his foster-brother and tending the sheep with him, 
for, they say, every Prophet has been a shepherd-boy 
in his youth. We are told but Allah is the most 
knowing that one day Halima's son saw two 
unknown persons dressed in white, two angels, who 



came up to the four-year-old Mahomet and, laying 
him on the ground, cleaved open his breast, washed 
it with the whitest snow and taking from his heart 
a black stain, closed up the flesh again and 
disappeared mysteriously. This legend is only based 
on a verse from the Koran (sura xciv) which says: 
" Have we not opened thy breatt and have we not 
removed the burden that thou haft carried ? ", a wholly 
mystical operation, the opening and cleansing of a 
heart destined to receive without reserve and transmit 
faithfully the divine message, thus bearing the heavy 
burden of its mission. This legend of the opened 
breast offers, moreover, certain dogmatic interest. 
The black stain removed by the angels can be likened 
to the stigma of original sin from which only Mary 
and Jesus were free. The cleansing of the heart 
takes a well-known place in mystic symbolism. 

At the age of six Mahomet lost his mother. As 
she was bringing him from Yatrib to Mecca, Amina 
died at Abwa where they buried her. Mahomet now 
had no protectors but the old negress, his grandfather 
and his uncles. 'Abdelmottalib took him in and loved 
him tenderly. Often, the old man spent the evening in 
the square shadowed by the Ka'ba where the principal 
men of Qoraish gathered in groups. A carpet was 
spread for him and the grown sons whom he had 
had by six different wives ; seated around him on 
the bare earth out of respect, were the gentle Abu 
Talib, the fierce 'Abdel'ozza, the grasping 'Abbas. 
His grandfather allowed Mahomet to sit close beside 
him on the carpet and gently caressed his shoulder. 
He had another son, Hamza, of the same age as 
Mahomet, and during his first days in the world 
Mahomet had had as a nurse a freed slave of his 
uncle, 'Abdel'ozza, who also gave suck to Hamza, 

33 D 


making the latter both uncle and foster-brother to 
the Prophet. 

When 'Abdelmottalib died, at the age of eighty, 
Mahomet, then but eight years old, was adopted by 
his uncle, Abu TaHb, who brought him up devotedly. 
Although purveyor to the Ka'ba as well as guardian, 
Abu Talib was no longer wealthy and could give 
only a very ordinary education to his ward ; Mahomet 
was more likely destined to become a commercial 
trader than a scholar. During the greater part of 
his life, he could neither read nor write, it was 

They say but Allah is the most knowing that 
his uncle took him into Syria by caravan during the 
month of Rabi". At that season the desert was in 
full splendour. The first winter rains had brought 
life and plenty and the peninsula was as prosperous 
as it ever could be. The grass grew richly to the 
satisfaction of the camels, whose humps swelled almost 
visibly as they ate their favourite pasture, the curious 
so" dan resembling nothing but most unappetising 
bunches of thorns. With delight the Bedouins saw 
their herds spreading over the steppes. With the end 
of their staves they dug up the wild artichokes and 
the succulent truffles growing everywhere. Even the 
nofuds^ those sinister stretches of sand as red as blood 
and as white as camphor, lost their terror, and could be 
traversed without danger. And the mournful dunes 
were covered with a carpet of growth, twining aromatic 
plants, euphorbiaceae and the tiniest flowers those 
dunes from twenty to fifty yards high of sand chewed 
up by the winds and so shifting that there was danger 
of the camels sinking into them in winter. Now, 
there was no longer risk of slipping into some gulf 
of quicksand. The ewes and she-camels, their teats 



swollen with milk, were put out to grass by the poorer 
tribes, and the gazelles found shelter in various 
wooded nooks. 

For a time, at least, the people escaped from the 
tormenting struggle for life and the anxiety of possible 
starvation. They were no longer reduced to seeking 
nourishment in leaves or the roots of the wild dwarf 
palm at the end of summer. The bellies and bottoms 
of the young Bedouins became as plump and round 
and soft as those of the little dogs of the Douar. The 
mounted brigands of the desert left off attacking 
caravans, became shepherds again, suddenly returning 
to the habits of their ancestors, and led a pastoral 
life tending their stolen flocks. Before, these terrible 
lusus or outlaws of the patriarchal fraternity were 
banned by their tribe, feared by travellers, sung by 
the poets and dreamed of by women. 

Now, the caravans moved towards the North, the 
civilized country of Christian monks, Roman soldiers 
and enchanting cities. As they followed the thousand- 
year-old road, they passed the rich, Jewish city of 
Khaibar at the right, with its flowering palm-groves 
and volcanic harra still vomiting muddy lava, the 
vast plain of black, burnt-out stones of Gehenna. 
They reached Hijr, then the Banu 'Odhra's lands, 
sung by the platonic love-poets, " dying when they 
love " and unresigned to extinguishing their ethereal 
ardour in the material joys of possession. 

The long valley scattered with villages and the 
rich Oasis of Wadi'l Qora bloomed in a sea of palms. 
From time to time the caravan passed a convent. 
They liked these monastries of dried brick with their 
hospitable monks. Lodged in the shelving rocks 
were small, natural lakes providentially filled by the 
winter rains, where swam little black fish excellent 



for eating. The monks allowed the travellers to draw 
this clear water much to their delight, for during 
the greater part of the journey there was only well- 
water for drinking, and that was usually brackish and 
unhealthy, unless, luckily, they found by digging in 
certain places under the protective layer of fine sand, 
water, fresh and " clear as the crystal of a raven's 
eye ". 

During the painful journeys the camel-drivers 
improvized long, lyrical melodies or recited the 
satires of news-bringing poets. The jumping-hares 
took flight. The Grange colocynth bloomed 
unexpectedly in the most arid sand. At the top of a 
far-off dune, the slender, restless gazelle poised for a 
moment in profile before taking flight. 

At night the guide chose the most suitable spot 
for the caravan to rest. They ate a little meat, dates 
and boiled barley, and reposed before sleeping beside 
a fire of camels' dung and fragrant boughs of shrubs, 
talking together under the lucid sky and wonderful, 
shining stars. The young Mahomet loved to listen 
to the conversation of the older men, to the adventures 
of travellers, to the marvellous stories and legends of 
olden times, some of which were connected with the 
very places that they passed. The caravan trailed 
along the endless, narrow, winding path bordered by 
strangely-formed rocks at the foot of the mountains 
rounded and grooved into abysses and running down, 
funnel-shaped, to the clay. For was this not the 
country of the Thamudites, one of the lost races of 
ancient Arabia, and destroyed long ago, oh ! long ago 
before the Patriarch Abraham ? These arrogant giants 
were cursed by God for not listening to the Prophet 
Salih, who had the power to change a block of stone 
into a living camel. But the Thamudites killed the 



animal and a terrible wail resounded in the heavens 
and all the impious fell down dead. The caverns 
in the rocks where this race lived could still be seen. 

The desert was peopled with jinns. These spirits 
sometimes breathed during the night and maliciously 
made the saddles fall down ; or they took the shape 
of huge lakes of blue water and green palm-trees, 
luring the thirsty traveller by false mirages and leading 
him where nothing but death awaited. Sometimes 
they surrounded the caravan with dark clouds, invoked 
spouts, whirling columns from veiled skies, or tempests 
of sand as fine as wheat-flour which blinded their 
eyes, burnt their skin, dried their throats and made 
their mouths bleed. 

And at times the sands sang ; then could be heard 
strange, clear, monotonous notes like wind blowing 
over the strings of a harp. Often they listened to a 
sort of unnatural laughter coming from nowhere, 
or diabolical chuckling both threatening and mocking. 
They would hurry across this strange valley, whipping 
on the beasts to get away quickly. 

The first important town was Aila at the end of 
a gulf running in from the Red Sea. This large 
village, they say, was once inhabited by Jews who fell 
into idolatry and profaned the Sabbath. Their old 
people were changed into swine and their young ones 
into monkeys. At last after passing the Dead Sea, 
they arrived at Bosra, the principal exchange-centre 
between the Greeks and the Arabs, surrounded by 
its crenellated walls giving an adequate idea of the 
power of the Byzantines. It was while camping at 
the foot of these ramparts that Mahomet made the 
acquaintance of a learned monk, Bahira. Mahometan 
tradition tells us that the ascetic had a presentiment 
that this young Arab was the great Prophet whose 



coming he had learned of in his books. Be that as 
it may, Syria had a great attraction for Mahomet. He 
always looked upon it as a land blessed by God over 
which the angels spread their wings. This land 
where Abraham hid after saving himself from the 
idolatry of Ur of Chaldea, this land of the mysterious 
People of the Book, this land of Jews possessing an 
unknown Bible and whom an earlier Prophet had 
conquered, now belonged to the Christians of Rum, 
those most powerful heritors of empires representing 
the most finished civilization. 

Was the young Qoraishite already making 
comparisons between the Byzantines and the Arabs, 
between monotheism and idolatry ? Was he beginning 
to reflect on the religious questions which afterwards 
absorbed all his thought and energy, and to doubt 
the crude beliefs among which he had passed his 
childhood ? 

Mahomet, still very young, made his first campaign 
beside his uncle in the war called El Fijar by the 
historians, or the Impious War, because it took place, 
in spite of the most sacred traditions, during the truce of 
the months devoted to pilgrimages the period when 
all hostility, plunder and murder must cease for the 
time being in the peninsula. 

During this " Truce of God " great annual fairs 
or markets were held in the neighbourhood of Mecca : 
during the first twenty days of the month of 
Dhulqa'da, at 'Okadh, a palm plantation between 
Tai'f and Nakhla, three stages from the town ; and 
immediately after the pilgrimage, still nearer at 
Majna and Dhulmejaz behind Mt. 'Arafa. 

The market at 'Okadh was the most celebrated. 
The people came not only for the sake of commerce 
but also to amuse themselves. Important business, 



news retailed by the caravans from all parts, games, 
songs, dances and poetry, all contributed to make 
this fair the heart of activity and the centre of Arabia 
for the time being. To form the least idea of 'Okadh 
we must conjure up something between the Greek 
Olympic games and the moussems of Morocco to-day. 
At 'Okadh the poets competed among themselves by 
reading their works in public. Here, also,were recited 
the famous mu'allaqat, afterwards written in golden 
letters and suspended from the ceiling of the Ka'ba. 
The victor was entertained by everyone and became 
the most renowned poet of his tribe. 

It was at 'Okadh, too, that religious ideas spread. 
Here the different cults of the peninsula were 
examined, and it appears that the Christians went 
there in great numbers from Hira or Nejran. That 
is how the young Mahomet first heard the well- 
known Quss ben Sa'ida, the Bishop of Nejran, when 
he went one day with his uncle to 'Okadh. 

This old Bishop, with snowy beard, for long the 
great orator of the desert and the referee of the Arabs, 
harangued the people from the height of his brown 
camel with no other pulpit but its arched hump. 
Taking as witnesses the sky, the sea, the night, the 
horses, the stars, Quss preached the uselessness of 
wealth and position to this crowd of merchants and 
warriors. (Later, in the Koran, were written poetic 
addresses which bear a striking resemblance to some 
of the oldest suras, even to the words.) Eloquently, 
with stereotyped rhythms, he said or rather recited : 

O mankind, hear and underhand. 

He who lives must die, who dies is departed. 

What must be will be : 

Obscure night, sky adorned with stars, 

Heaving billows, sparkling planets, 



Light and darkness, justice and injustice, 

Food and drink, clothing and saddle-horses. . . . 

What do I see ? Men go and return never. 

Does the bed please them so much that they rise from it never ? 

Or forsaken, have they no one to waken them ? 

Thus he talked for long hours, unfolding in endless 
variety a succession of changing images, sentences, 
proverbs, cliches, never tiring the listener, who 
passionately loved these harmonious recitations, these 
" sprung pearls " of a skilful artist. Many years later 
Mahomet remembered Quss preaching from the top 
of his brown camel and asked Abu Bakr to recite 
his words. Without a doubt, this was one of the 
first Christian influences he was submitted to. 

A Kinani, Barradh ben Qa'is, a rake and drunkard 
disowned by his tribe and become one of the khali* 
outlaws whom we saw swarming in the distant quarters 
of Mecca, returned to that town and attached himself 
to Harb ben Omayya as a hanger-on (halif). There 
he recommenced his outrageous drinking and offences. 
Harb urged him to leave. He went, then, to No'man, 
the Lakhmide king of Hira, who sent a caravan every 
year to 'Okadh carrying musk and bringing back 
leather, cords and stuffs from Yemen. It was necessary 
to have a guide for the tribes whose territories 
they crossed. Barradh offered to conduct the caravan, 
with the protection of Kinana, to the Hijaz. At the 
same time 'Orwab ben er Rahha 1 !, of Hawazin, proposed 
himself to the king as the director of the caravan to 
the Hijaz by way of Nejd, promising to travel through 
these two countries unaided, and more successfully 
than a dog disowned by its own brothers. 'Orwa 
was chosen by No'man. 

Barradh was furious and followed awaiting the 
opportunity for revenge. Scorning him too much to 



fear him, 'Orwa considered it unworthy to drive him off. 
But one day Barradh found him sleeping under a tree 
and coolly assassinated him, taking possession of the 
camels. Instead of blushing at his treachery, the 
khal? sang of his exploit in pompous verse. The 
murder was all the more odious because it took place 
in the month of Dhulqa'da during the Holy Truce. 

While escaping with his plunder, Barradh met 
Bishr, the Qoraishite, and said to him : 

" Hurry and warn the Qoraishites that the Hawazin 
will want to wreak vengeance on them." 

" Mostly on you, I think." 

" No. They will want more than the blood of 
one khal? to make amends for the blood of a chief." 

Bishr went immediately to 'Okadh to caution his 
countrymen, who left hastily for Mecca. 

It was nearly night when the Hawazin learned of 
'Orwa's murder. They were enraged and instantly 
began the pursuit of the Meccans at the same time 
that the poet Labid improvized verses about the 

The Hawazin encountered the Qoraishites at 
sunset at Nakhla and the battle began. Harb was 
in the centre with the flag of Qosay, and 'Abdallah 
and Hisham at the two wings. The Qoraishites were 
less in number and withdrew towards Mecca, " like 
lizards into their holes. " At the boundary (or hortri) 
of the sacred territory the Hawazin slopped and 
shouted out : 

" We will meet you next year at 'Okadh." (There 
was no haste over this war ; guerilla-warfare was a 
sort of sport.) 

" We shall be there," replied Abu Sofyan, at the 
order of his father, Harb. 

The cynical Barradh went to Mecca, where he sold 


and squandered in his revelries the gains of his crime 
King No'man's camels and perfumes. The bourgeois 
of Qoraish encouraged adventurers of this kind for 
they were useful as swordsmen. That is how these 
wasteful bravi carried on their business. 

The following year the two factions prepared for 
war. The Hawazin reached 'Okadh first and stationed 
themselves on a hill. The Qoraishites, under Harb's 
command and with their allies, the Banu Kinana, 
established themselves near a ravine. At first the 
Ooraishites had the advantage and then fell back. 
Harb had ordered the Kinana to hold the rear and 
in no event to give way. But seeing their own allies, 
the Qoraishites, retreating, a part of the Kinana 
soldiers advanced while the others took to flight. And 
thus Mahomet engaged in another defeat of his 

Two months later the armies met again at Abla 
not far from the market ; a new victory fell to the 

Each side sent for reinforcements and the war was 
resumed on the same field at 'Okadh. Omayya's six 
sons (nicknamed the " Lions "), incensed at the three 
successive defeats, bound their own legs (as they did 
with camels to prevent them from running away), 
meaning that they were determined to conquer or 
to die. Crouching with one knee on the ground and 
the left calf tied to the right thigh with a cord, they 
showered arrows continually on to the enemy, certain 
of victory. 

It was now the Qorai shite poets' turn to sing of 
the victory in grandiloquent verse. 

At the end of four years, peace was concluded on 
the following strange conditions frequent amongst 
those people living in clans : the dead on both sides 



were counted and the side having the least dead were 
compelled to pay blood-money to make the losses 
even. In short, the victor compensated the loser, 
with the result that the comparative strength of the 
clans remained as before. There were wars which 
never finished because the combatants demanded the 
same number of dead. Blood-money made a quicker 

The Hawazin having lost twenty more men than 
their adversaries, the Qoraishites paid them an 
adequate compensation in money ; the result of this 
war gave rise to a great many poems likewise a 
proverb stigmatizing the murderer who caused it : 

" More villainous than Barradh." 




When I was poor, she enriched 
me ; when all the world aban- 
doned me, she comforted me; 
when they treated me as a liar, 
she believed in me, 

OUNG Mahomet as a poor orphan practised several 
trades. He went to Yemen with Zubai'r, his 
uncle. At twenty, he was still forced to tend the herds 
some times, at his age a humiliating task generally given 
to slaves and girls. For some time he kept a little 
shop in Mecca, and on several occasions he acted as 
commercial agent or salesman in caravan expeditions. 
Among the great fortunes of Mecca was that of 
the widow Khadija, of the Qoraishite tribe of the 
Asad, who had been twice married to Makhzumite 
bankers. With the aid of her father, Khowailid, and 
of several trustworthy men, her commercial business, 
of which she was her own director, had become one 
of the most important firms in this Venice of the 
desert. Her nephew, one of her employees, had 
travelled with Mahomet, and valuing the honesty, 
sincerity and prudence of that young man, 
recommended him to the widow. He took Mahomet 
to the widow, who was pleased with his appearance. 
The pleasant looks, manly beauty and open 
countenance of this young man of twenty-five inspired 
her best intentions towards him. She took him 
immediately into her service at a good wage. 



Mahomet became a trusted man in Khadija's 
employ and directed her caravans throughout the 
entire peninsula. His uncultivated mind developed 
by contact with various races and religions and 
improved through practical acquaintanceship with men. 
He passed through all sorts of regions the uplands 
of Nejdj the valleys of Midian, the Sarat Mountains 
surrounding Taif with their orchards of European 
fruit-trees, the 'Asir Mountains inhabited by barbarous 
tribes who marketed their young, nubile girls and 
generally lent their wives to their guests. He lived 
under the same tent with rough Bedouins who ate 
lizards and jumping-hares, who were practical but 
poetic, famished but ostentatious. And Khadija's 
business went on perfectly. 

More and more satisfied with her handsome 
employee's merits, the widow wished to attach him 
finally to herself ; she opened up her plans to her 
slave, Maisara, who agreed to sound Mahomet. 
One evening she said to him : 

" At your age, most men have at least one wife 
and several children, and some have even had time 
to get divorced already, why don't you marry ? " 

" I earn my living now, without a doubt," said 
Mahomet who had had a hard time in the beginning, 
" but I have nothing of my own. I am without an 
income and have not even a father. Have I the means 
to pay a dowry and marry ? " 

" Well ! Supposing you found a woman who did 
not need your money and who brought you beauty, 
wealth and rank at the same time . . . you would 
not have to worry about anything. Well ! What do 
you say ? " 

" Of whom do you wish to speak ? cried the 
young man, seizing the slave's arm. " What do you 



wish to say ? Who is the person in question ? 
Speak ! " 

" Khadija. 

" How could that be possible ? " 

" All is possible. Leave it to me ; do nothing and 
count on me." And the slave went away without 
pushing the matter further, but leaving Mahomet 
to his meditations. 

Next day Khadija sent a woman to say to her 
employee : 

" I want to be your wife." 

What woman wants . . . Khadija was successful, 
but, it would seem, not without a certain resistance 
on the part of her family, little, flattered to see a rich 
Qoraishite connected with the distinguished Banu 
Makhzum marry an orphan without a penny and of 
a less-esteemed clan. The reflections that she must 
have heard about this misalliance with an employee 
can be imagined, not to speak of the allusions, flattering 
or otherwise, to her forty years and over. Gossips 
even said that she made her father or her uncle 
drunk after a good dinner, to force him to consent 
to the marriage. 

Far from being a slave to her possessions, Khadija 
saw fit to regard her fortune only as a means to satisfy 
more readily the inclinations of her heart. 

The marriage was celebrated joyfully. They say 
that Abu Talib paid a dowry of twenty camels, worth 
about five hundred dirhems, and gave a little lecture 
extolling the renown of Qoraish and the virtues of 
his brother's son, richer in true gifts of soul than in 
the fleeting gifts of fortune. Waraqa, Khadija's 
cousin, replied. The feast continued late into the 
night. The date-wine flowed in torrents and some 
leather bottles of precious grape-wine were also 



opened. In the interior court of the house, by the 
light of torches and innumerable stars in the Arabian 
sky, the bride's slave-girls danced and sang to the 
sound of tambourines. . . . 

On the step of the house a camel was slaughtered 
and the poor people came to divide its flesh. 

Khadija retained the management of her own 
fortune but provided for her husband's living. 

In this trading republic where people were 
respected chiefly for their money, Mahomet became 
somewhat less disregarded. They admired his 
character, moreover, and gave him the nickname 
of el amtn> the faithful, the sincere, the trustworthy, 
although he still played a r6le in the background 
and no one dreamed of placing him in the rank of 
the leading Qoraishites. But one day something 
happened, they say, to make him prominent. 

In the year 605 the people of Mecca decided to 
build the Temple of the Ka'ba on more dignified 
lines. The old Ka'ba spoken of by Diadorus of 
Sicily fifty years before Jesus Christ was in some ways 
the Pantheon of Arabia. But this infirm little cube of 
masonry in the middle of the large Meccan square, 
many times injured by the winter floods, was decorated 
within by frescoes and surrounded without by a great 
number of idols, statues or, more accurately, unpolished 
stones, and column-altars three hundred and sixty, 
they say, to correspond to the days of the lunar year 
and symbolize astronomical worship. The temple 
was covered with a huge brocade renewed every year 
on the day of 'Ashura (loth of Moharram, the first 
month). An iron door decorated with gold plates 
had been melted down along with the swords and the 
golden gazelle discovered by 'Abdelmottalib when he 
cleaned and re-excavated the wells of Zemzen. 



In the temple was a particularly respected image of 
the god Hobal, which a Khoza'i prince had brought 
from the Amalekites in the third century and placed 
in the Ka'ba. It was of cornelian and represented 
a bearded old man with a golden hand, dressed in 
many-coloured stuffs saturated with saffron and 
herbs. Before Hobal the people consulted their fate 
by means of seven darts consecrated to him, each 
bearing an inscription : " Yes," " no," " price of 
blood," " stranger," " water," etc. Anyone wanting 
to decide about a marriage, to dig a well, or pay an 
indemnity for a murder, went to pray before the idol. 
A priest mixed the darts and the person drew one by 
chance. Under the statue was a vault for the safe- 
keeping of offerings and the blood of victims. 

They even say that the effigies of Jesus and Mary 
were painted on a column in the Ka'ba. Each tribe 
had a special and portable fetish under a tent-tabernacle 
(the qubba) which it carried to battle surrounded 
by young Bedouin women singing. Some of the 
tribes also had a local idol and sometimes a temple, 
as, for instance, the sanctuaries of Dhulkholosa of 
the Banu Khath'am in Yemen ; of Roda, the idol of 
the Banu Rabi'a ben Ka c b in Nejd ; of Dhulka'bat, 
idol of the Banu Wail at Sendad in Irak ; of the well- 
known goddesses El Lat and El ( Oz,za of the Banu 
Thaqif at Tai'f and the Qoraishites at Nakhla, 
respectively ; of Man at at Qodaid between Mecca 
and Medina. 

But the Ka'ba was the common temple for the 
greater part of the peninsula and the only one to which 
pilgrimages were made ; the Bait Allah^ the House 
of Almighty God and the Pantheon of the lesser 

The fetish particular to Mecca was the famous 



Black Stone perhaps a meteor and a kind of pumice- 
stone, for they say it floated in water thought to be 
the only object from paradise on earth, brought to 
Ishmael by the Archangel Gabriel and blackened by 
men's sins. 

They had framed it in an angle of the building at 
the height of a man, for originally the Ka'ba was really 
only a reliquary for this Black Stone. It was piously 
kissed or touched by the hand when the seven 
processional rounds (the tawdf) of the temple 
were made. 

One night a thief broke very easily into this tiny 
temple scarcely higher than a man and stole the treasure 
from the vault watched over by Hobal ; consequently 
it was thought necessary to build the temple higher 
and furnish it with a strong roof. An occasion pre- 
sented itself, for a Byzantine ship many of them came 
through the canal the Pharaohs dug centuries before 
de Lesseps to cross the isthmus and the delta ran 
aground on the Arabian coast at Jeddah. Its timber 
was excellent for framework and moreover, at Mecca 
lived an excellent Coptic carpenter. 

After watching the omens and hesitating for long 
to touch the temple, the people of Mecca decided 
to demolish it. 

The work of reconstruction was divided amongst 
the various Qoraishite tribes. When the walls were 
finished the question arose of the placing of the 
Black Stone. Who should have this honour ? For 
five days, they rigorously discussed this serious 
question which necessarily caused the worst domestic 
disputes. Each tribe wanted to take charge of it and 
not one would give up the task to the other. 

Having decided to throw obstacles in the way of 
any clan powerful enough to monopolize this honour, 

49 E 


the Barm 'Abdeddar and the Barm 'Adi formed an 
alliance until death by uttering a dreadful oath and 
plunging their arms up to the elbow in a vessel 
of blood. Would a civil war be the outcome ? 

At last an old man advised them to choose as 
arbitrator the first person who stepped into the Mesjid 
square by such and such a gate. This they accepted 
and awaited the decision of fate. 

A man, still young, of full strength, with stately 
but unaffected bearing, thoughtful but not listless, 
with open, serious face framed in its black beard, 
soon arrived at the place where all eyes were turned. 

" It is the amm" they cried. " It is Abulqasim, 
son of 'Abdallah the Hashimite ! He will give the 
casting vote." 

Mahomet had them bring him a large cloak and 
placing it under the Black Stone, arranged that the 
representative of each different branch of Qoraish, 
Zam c a, Abu Hoddai'fa, Qai's ben c Adi and c Otba of the 
Banu 'Abdelmanaf, should hold an edge of the cloak 
and lift the stone to its proper height. Then he, himself, 
took the sacred stone and put it into place in the north 
angle of the temple, to the satisfaction of all. 

Mahomet had several daughters by Khadija : 
Zai'nab, Roqai'a, Omm Kulthum, and the well-known 
Fatima (the only child of the Prophet who had 
descendents), and possibly a son, Qasim. Mahomet 
was called Abulqasim, " the father of Qasim " ; but 
we must add that this prenomen (or kunya) may be 
given independently of any fatherhood and that we 
know of many children in their nurses' arms named 
Abu this or Abu that ... In any case, this son and 
three others mentioned by tradition, left no traces. If 
they existed, they died in the cradle. 



It is not astonishing, therefore, that Mahomet 
thought of adopting a son. Khadija's nephew, having 
gone into Syria with a caravan, returned with a certain 
number of slaves. This commerce of men, African 
negroes or war captives from Arabia, was one of the 
most lucrative trades, and the noble Qoraishites did 
not disdain to practise it. 

Amongst: the slaves in question was a young man 
named Zaid ben Haritha of the Banu Kalb, who fell 
into servitude during a raid (razzia). Mahomet saw 
"this handsome Adonis for sale and was captivated. 
He begged his wife to buy him from the nephew, which 
Khadija gladly did. Mahomet soon afterwards 
freed him. 

The young man's father, having heard that he was 
at Mecca, went there one day and offered to pay 
Mahomet his ransom. 

" If he wants to go, he shall go without ransom," 
said Mahomet, " but if he prefers to remain with me 
as son and friend, why should I not keep him ? " 

Zaid, who was attached to his master, chose to 
remain. Mahomet adopted him publicly, and 
possessed in him the most devoted of disciples and 

The Hashimites, as we have said, had not been 
greatly favoured by fortune. Of all 'Abdelmottalib's 
sons, the richest was 'Abbas, the merchant and usurer ; 
but he was also extremely miserly. A year of famine 
occurred after a prolonged drought, and Abu Talib, 
with his many children, was in want. His nephew, 
Mahomet, comfortably off since his marriage, proposed 
to 'Abbas, they say, to come to the aid of this father 
of a family. 

So they went to see Abu Talib and each one offered 
to take one of his sons to rear. 



" Provided you leave me my most intelligent son, 
c Aqil, I gladly consent ; do as you like with the 
others," replied Abu Talib, in a manner far from 
flattering to Ali and Ja'far who, if the anecdote is 
correct, were brought up by Mahomet and 'Abbas 
respectively from that time on. 

Mahomet's house was a model of conjugal happiness 
and domestic virtue ; Khadija made an ideal wife for 
Mahomet, who was the best of husbands. This man, 
in whom the passions developed so strongly later, and 
who at about sixty provided himself with at least a dozen 
wives, remained faithful to one wife much older than 
himself for a quarter of a century. Khadija was all 
women to him at once wife, mistress, mother, friend, 
confidant and comforter. Mahomet's youth had been 
chaste. They only mention two occasions, at the time 
that he was tending the herds on the hills near Mecca, 
when he set off to the town to satisfy his youthful 
needs in the obliging establishments on the outskirts. 
Like a young rustic, he started off to have a pleasant 
time, but twice an unforeseen event stopped him. 



/ do not know how to read. 

Tj^OR some time Mahomet had rather neglected his 
* business, not attending to his caravans and trade 
as carefully as before. His wife's income slopped 
increasing with regularity; but since he was freed from 
the necessity of earning his daily bread, he considered 
her fortune rather as a means than an end in itself and 
set about to gratify his personal ambitions. He began 
to practise tahannutsj- emulating certain ascetics and 
Christian hermits of the desert. 

During the month of Ramadan, especially, he 
retired from the town to a cave on Mt. Hira, where he 
had provisions brought him from time to time and 
passed long days in reflection and prayer. Like all 
intensely strong-minded and serious persons he found 
solitude essential ; even after he became a chief of 
the State, absorbed in politics and war, he still resorted 
to this method of renewing his strength, balance and 
wisdom, and insisted that these moments of isolation 
be respected as a necessity to his inspiration. The 
Koran ordered the faithful not to enter the Prophet's 
house without permission nor to remain in his company 
for an unreasonable time. This leader of men under- 
stood the satiety of men, their useless troubles, 
their paltry and ungodly struggles. 

1 Ascetic prayers. 



" Almost the best lot for a true believer," he 
said, " is to pasture a flock of sheep on the mountain 
peaks, thus escaping with his faith far from the 
world's cares." 

We like to imagine Mahomet amongst the rough, 
arid gorges of Mt. Hira, stretched out on a rock over- 
looking the plain with the town below suspended 
between the ravines of Mt. Abi Qubai's. Evening 
falls. The half-naked shepherds gather their sheep 
together in the golden dull. The atmosphere is so 
clear and quiet that their cries and the sound of their 
staffs on the stones can be heard from afar. The slopes 
become an almost reddish yellow as if burning with the 
last rays of the setting sun, showing up distinctly 
the similar tone of the bushes, with spiney leaves 
bristling in constant defence and determination to live. 

The first stars come out. How many times have 
these same stars been contemplated from the terraces 
of Mecca or the threshold of some tent pitched beside 
a well ? How many times has man wondered at the 
harmonious and unyielding law directing their course ? 
During summer nights in the desert they are so 
numerous and so brilliant that we almost believe we 
can hear their flames crackling like the song of a 
giant brazier. 

Surely there are signs in the heavens for those who 
can understand them. There are mysteries in the 
world, and the world is a mystery. But is it enough 
to open our eyes to see and to lend our ears to hear ? 
That is, to see truly ? And to hear what ineffable 
words ? But man has eyes which do not see and ears 
which do not hear. It seems to him, however, that 
he does hear something. Does he really need more 
than a pure heart and a sincere and receptive spirit 
to catch the voice that comes from beyond the stars ? 



Soon he will call these stars to witness, and this vault 
of night, and this moon with modes!: lustre as potent 
as the glimmer of truth ; for her strange phases are 
a rhythmic dance : from a pale silver thread, than 
a slender crescent, she waxes resplendent, full. 

(I swear) : 

By the slar> when it setteth 

By the heaven, and that which appeareth by night : 

But what shall cause thee to understand what that which appeareth by 

night is ? 

It is the ftar of piercing brightness. . . . 
(I swear) : 
By the heaven adorned with signs. . . . 1 

Will these stars not fall one day ? 

And this moon will it not be cloven asunder : the 
sky fold up like a cloak ? Will the earth not cast 
up the wicked and paltry at last ? Will the sun not 
lose its brilliance and the constellations be one day 
scattered ? Put to flight by a breath from nowhere ? 
And does not God ask, finally, for his full measure upon 
earth, as the Christians affirm ? 

This immobility of the contemplative Oriental is 
not a sterile somnolence but a fruitful concentration 
and method of accumulating energy. By purging the 
spirit these long musings magnify the intuitive 
faculties and gather strength not only for the great 
discoveries of the soul but also for worldly action 
when it is necessary. The great thinkers have had to 
be untiring creators. Who can do the most can do 
the least, and true meditation is action pre-eminently. 

Mahomet underwent a crisis ; and sought the 
explanation in the solitude of the mountains. Did 
he hear in the great voice of the desert the eternal 

1 Koran, liii, I ; Ixxxvi, 13 ; Ixxxv, i. 



truth springing from the soul of things as he 
contemplated the starry sky overhead and listened 
most profoundly to his own soul so wonderfully 
ummi, natural, truthful and free ? 

Man's wisdom is doubtful. He can only admit the 
truth, the indisputable truth ; he can only live in 
truth. That which he sees about him is not true. 

The life lived by the Qoraishites was not true. The 
usurers directing their caravans, the thieving 
anarchical Bedouins, the unscrupulous adventurers, 
the untrustworthy dealers in Mecca, had not the true 
vision of life. They forgot something essential. 
The idols mounting guard around the Ka'ba were not 
true. The god Hobal, with his huge beard and motley 
robes greasy with herbs, was not a true god. 

But what is truth ? There is no man worthy of the 
name who does not ask himself this question but 
not as Pilate asked it. 
What is truth ? 

Nevertheless, when one of the most learned 
Qoraishites, Zaid ben c Amr, went to the Ka'ba to 
pray and touch the ground with his forehead, he leaned 
against the door of the Temple and reproached his 
countrymen with their superstitions. 

" O God ! " he cried, " if I knew what kind of 
worship pleased Thee most I would adopt it. But I 
do not know." 

How recognize the true religion ? Was it that of 
the Jews, so powerful at Yathrib and in the Hijaz 
Oasis, or that of the Christians those possessors of a 
mysterious Book commanding respect ? During his 
travels Mahomet had esteemed these Christians. Even 
at Mecca they were most numerous in the outskirts 
of the town, particularly amongst the slaves from 
Abyssinia. Could it be that these common people 



possessed a truth unknown to the noble Arabs ? 
Mahomet was attracted by this religion but knew 
little about it ; and it was not these ignorant people 
usually contending among themselves who cduld 
instruct him in it. He needed direct inspiration. 

Zaid was a poet and scholar. He confided in God 
alone and not in the jinns. In his verses he praised 
one God, the creator of heaven and earth. He was not 
so mad, he said, as to believe in El Lat and El Ozza, 
the stupid divinities of stupid men. Such super- 
stitions must disappear in the light of reason, as the 
phantoms of night and the chimeras of darkness 
vanish in the daylight. 

Mahomet met Zaid ben 'Amr one day in the 
neighbourhood of Mecca and asked him to share his 
meal with him. But the meat served was that of 
animals sacrificed to the idols and Zaid refused to eat it. 
" I only eat the meat of beasts slaughtered when 
calling upon Allah's name," he said. 

Mahomet, who probably practised the ordinary 
ritual, was struck by the old man's attitude, and his 
doubts were increased by his association with Zaid's 
disciples and other friends. 

At a fte given in the valley of Nakhla to honour 
the goddess El 'Ozza, all the tribes of Mecca were 
represented, and Mahomet sacrificed a white ewe. 
Zaid ben 'Amr, 'Othman ben el Huwairith, 
'Obai'dallah ben Jahsh and Waraqa ben Nawfal 
(these last two were Mahomet's cousins) also came, 
but formed a separate group. 

" Our countrymen are wrong," they said, " to 
commune with a false deity who can do nothing either 
good or evil. Shall we also gather round an insensible 
stone that neither sees nor hears and only drips with 
the blood of its victims ? Let us find a better faith 



than that. We will go to foreign lands and look 
for the truth." 

Zaid wanted to go to Syria, the Christian country. 
His wife and his uncle, El Khattab, young 'Omar's 
father, made an effort to prevent him from going 
there by pretending that Zaid was a madman and 
prompting the street-urchins to make game of him. 
In the end, however, he managed to get away and 
wandered throughout Palestine and Mesopotamia, 
talking with rabbis and monks, but died on the way 
home without having seen Mahomet proclaimed 
Prophet. Mahomet prayed for his soul and looked 
upon him as a forerunner. Waraqa and Omayya ben 
Abi's-Salt wrote his elegy in verse. 

As a result, 'Obaidallah was converted to Islam ; 
after going to Abyssinia, he became a Christian and 
died there. Later, it behoved Mahomet to marry his 
widow, Omm Habiba, Abu Sofyan's daughter. 

'Othman ben el Huwai'rith went to Byzantium, 
where he was baptized. He, it seemed, was more 
ambitious and less mystic than his three friends, and 
tried to establish a Greek protectorate over Mecca and 
to reign as a vassal-king under Caesar. The Qoraishites 
drove him out shamefully ; he found shelter with the 
Ghassanides, but later was poisoned by them. 

And last of all, Waraqa ben Nawfal, Khadija's 
cousin, already a Christian and a student of the 
Scriptures, made an Arab translation of several 
fragments of the Gospels, they say, and lived as an 
intimate in Mahomet's circle. 

About the year 610, the inner crisis that took 
possession of Mahomet was at its height. The idea 
that something was lacking to himself and his people 
was intolerable to him. The only essential thing had 
been forgotten. They were attached to the fetishes 



or the idols of their tribe or clan ; were afraid of 
jinns, ogres and spirits. They neglected the supreme 
reality (though not denying it, perhaps), and this 
negligence was the death of their souls. Mahomet 
freed himself from all collateral ideas, detached himself 
from all forces depending on other forces, from all 
beings who were only a reflection of the One Being. 
He knew now, through the Christians of Syria and 
Mecca, that there was but one revealed religion and 
that the few people who had received divine orders 
were the possessors of the truth ! Inspired men had 
told them about heaven. Each time that men went 
astray, heaven sent a Prophet to show them the right 
path and to remind them of the inalterable truth. 
This religion of the Prophets of all time was one and the 
same religion and whenever men distorted it a 
messenger was sent from heaven to set them right. 
The Arabs of that day had lost their way completely. 
Was it not essential that divine mercy reveal itself 
again to them with its special aid ? 

Mahomet gave up men's companionship more and 
more. In the solitudes of Mt. Hira he found greater 
and greater satisfaction. Spending whole weeks at a 
time there with a few scanty provisions, his spirit gloried 
in fasting, in vigils, and in the search for a defined 
idea. He hardly knew whether it was day or night, 
whether he dreamed or watched. For hours at a time 
he remained kneeling in the darkness or lying in the 
sun, or he strode with long steps on the stony tracks. 
When he walked, it seemed as if voices came out 
of the rocks ; when he struck a stone, it answered 
him. And the stones everywhere under that fiery sun 
seemed to greet him as " God's Apostle "... 

On his return the good Khadija was troubled to see 
him so silently elated. Sometimes he appeared to lose 



all consciousness of what was going on around him 
and lay inert on the ground, his breathing hardly 
perceptible. Then he would sleep, his breast rising and 
falling regularly with peaceful slumber. But his 
respiration would grow more rapid ; he would pant ; 
dream ; an enormous human being as huge as the 
heavens over the earth and covering the whole 
horizon would then approach, rush towards him with 
extended arms ready to seize him. . . . Mahomet 
would wake with a start, his body covered with sweat ; 
Khadija would wipe his forehead and question him 
gently but anxiously in a voice she tried to calm. He 
would remain silent, or evade her questions, or he would 
answer in words she did not understand. 

At the end of six months Mahomet's body suffered ; 
he grew thin, his step became jerky, his hair and beard 
unkempt, his eyes strange. He felt hopeless. Had he 
become one of those madmen such as he had often 
met a pathetic demoniac, a hideous plaything of the 
powers of darkness ? Was he one of those poets 
inspired by a, jinn for measured phrases often burst 
unconsciously from his tongue. He felt hopeless ; 
for he had a horror of poets, playthings of every wind, 
who said what they did not do. 

" I am afraid of becoming mad," he decided to say 
one day to the gentle Khadija, when he could no 
longer bear the weight. " I see all the signs of madness 
in myself. Who would have believed that I would 
become a poet, or possessed by a jinn ? I ! By no 
chance speak of it to anyone." 

Khadija wished for his confidence. She hoped 
and she doubted ; but when she was so worried her- 
self, how could she reassure him ? But she was a 
woman made to give consolation and comfort ; she 
possessed the tender firmness of a virtuous wife and 



a devoted mother and gave this man, younger than 
herself, the fullest love. In her devotion she was 
almost subconsciously pleased to find this strong man, 
her admired husband, weak and ill. How could she 
help reassuring him ? 

" O Abulqasim, are you not the amm for so you 
are called the sincere, the trustworthy, the truthful 
man ? How can God allow you to be deceived when 
you do not deceive ? Are you not a pious, sober, 
charitable, hospitable man ? Have you not respected 
your parents, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, helped 
the traveller, protected the weak ? It is not possible 
that you are the plaything of lying demons and 
malicious jinns." 

" What, then, is this being who seeks me out again 
and again ? What is this being who has not told me 
his name and from whom I cannot escape ? " 
Mahomet was again seized with anguish. He 
trembled, his face grew red and then pale ; his ears 
hummed, his eyes dilated. A strange presence had 
intruded itself. 

" There he is ! It is he \ He is coming ..." 

And yet he was awake and neither asleep nor 
dreaming ; and the strange being was approaching. 
He was there. 

Khadija had an inspiration : 

" Come to me," she said to her husband. " Get 
under my cloak." Mahomet did so. He was like 
a child on his mother's breast, hunting protection 
from all the world's dangers. Khadija covered him 
with her veil, let down her hair ; she seated him on 
her knees, embraced him closely and hid him against 
her flesh under her clothing and her dark hair. 

" Well ? " she asked, " Is he still there ? " 

" I do not see nor feel him any more. He is gone." 



" Then he is not a lewd jinn, nor yet a demon ; for 
he respects women's chastity. It can only be an 
angel of God." 

Ramadan came. Mahomet increased his solitary 
watches in the passes of Mt. Hira. Days passed ; 
the crescent moon grew round, resplendent, then 
waxed thinner and thinner again. One night Mahomet 
was asleep in a cave. Suddenly the mysterious being 
who had visited him before appeared, holding a 
piece of silk in his hand covered with writing. 

" Iqra\" said he to Mahomet : " Read." 1 

" I. do not know how to read." 

The being threw himself upon him, cast the silk 
around his neck tight enough to almost stifle him. 
But letting it go, he said : 

" Read." 

" I do not know how to read." 

The being again threw himself upon Mahomet 
to stifle him. 

" Read," he repeated for the third time. 

" What shall I read ? " 

" Read," said the being, letting him go. 

Read, in the name of thy Lord, who hath created all things ; 
Who hath created man of congealed blood. 
Read, by thy mofi beneficent Lord who taught the use of the pen ,- 
Who teacheth man that which he knozveth not. 

(Koran, xcvi, 1-5.) 

Mahomet repeated these words and felt his spirit 
suddenly illuminated. The silk covered with signs 
was before him. Though illiterate he understood 
what was written, and knew intuitively the contents 
of a book filled with divine secrets. 

The angel confirmed what had been the nature of 

1 Or : " Recite " ; referring to the liturgical psalmody of the 
sacred texts. Or again : " Preach, in the Lord's name. . . ." 



his thoughts during months past : God created man 
and revealed to him the truth that passes all under- 
standing. " It is He who taught the use of the pen , 
who revealeth to man that which he knoweth not." 
The miracle of the revelation and mystery of the written 
word so impressive to the illiterate and all the more 
persuasive if it refers to a divine subject. At last 
the Arabs, like the Jews and Christians, were about to 
have a sacred text to recite liturgically, and a super- 
natural law to guide them in the path of salvation. 

The mysterious being was gone. Mahomet awoke 
with the feeling that a book had been written in his 
heart. He came out from the grotto much disturbed 
and ran the full length of the dark tracks, knocking 
his feet against the stones, and reached the top of the 
mountain. And there he heard a celestial voice 
assuring him that he was the Messenger of Allah. 

Mahomet lifted up his eyes and saw at the horizon 
the Archangel in human form, shining with 
resplendence, yet veiled at the same time by the light. 
Overpowered, he turned away his face, but saw the 
same vision again. Once more he turned, but from 
every side and at each moment he perceived the 
radiant and motionless angel. He saw nothing but 
the angel. The angel was everywhere, sitting 
straight and calm upon a throne of fire, and looking 
fixedly, silently, at him. 

Terrified and dizzy, his soul disturbed, Mahomet 
prostrated himself on the ground, hiding his head in 
his hands, rigid, unconscious of the outside world. . . . 

Khadija was troubled at the non-appearance of 
her husband for he had left a long time ago with 
very few provisions. At daylight she sent one of her 
slaves to look for him, but he found no one in the grotto 
and called his master's name in vain, only to hear it 



echoed from the mountain. Her anxiety increased. 
At last, when the day was already advanced, she saw 
her husband enter quite exhausted, with haggard look 
and disordered dress. Without speaking Mahomet 
went to Khadija and fell at her feet. He put his head 
in her lap and allowed her to stroke his hair, like a 
dejected child. 

" O Abulqasim, where have you come from ? " 
she said. " I sent them to the mountain but they did 
not find you." 

Mahomet told her everything that had happened, 
mentioning his terror, his agony, his pious ardour, 
and his doubts. 

" By him who holds Khadija's life between his 
hands," she cried, " I hope that you will become the 
Prophet of these people. No, God will not allow you 
to be deceived. Are you not a genuine and truthful 
man, a holy and charitable one ? You are the friend 
of your kindred, the supporter of the weak ; you give 
to those who have nothing and shelter travellers. No, 
God will not deceive you." 

Mahomet was seized with terror again and began 
to shiver. 

" Cover me," he cried, " cover me. Wrap me 
up. Hide me." 

Khadija took her woollen cloak and threw it over 
her husband, covering him completely, hiding his head 
and his eyes under the stuff. Then she rocked him like 
a mother, laid him gently on the bed, and he slept. 

Leaving her husband sleeping, though only half 
reassured herself, Khadija went to consult her cousin, 
the learned Waraqa. This old sage, a student of the 
Jewish and Christian Scriptures, knew how to 
recognize truth and to throw light upon it under 
exceptional circumstances. Khadija admired her 



husband blindly and believed in him ; but really, 
all these things were so very strange. . . . 

" By him who holds Waraqa's life between his 
hands," cried the old man, when Khadija had told 
him everything, " if you speak the truth, Mahomet 
will be the Prophet of this nation, for he is, without 
doubt, the expected Messenger. The angel he saw 
was the great Namus, God's confidant, whom He once 
sent to Moses, 'Imran's son. He is the holy messenger 
who inspires Prophets. But what, then, did he tell 
your husband ? Did he order him to preach ; did he 
entrust him with a definite message ? Did he 
command him to call mankind to God ? I am anxious 
to know. For in that case I will be the first to believe 
in Mahomet's mission and to come over to his 
religion. Go, seek out your husband ; calm his fears 
and banish your own." 

Khadija went home. Mahomet was still sleeping. 
She looked at him for a long time lovingly and 
earnestly. He slept peacefully. But suddenly she 
saw him move ; his forehead grew moist, he breathed 
laboriously, then rose to his feet. The angel had 

" Rise," said he. 

" I have risen," said Mahomet. "What shall 
I do ? " 

O thou covered, 

Arise and preach. 

And magnify thy Lord. 

And cleanse thy garments : 

And fly every abomination : 

And be not liberal, in hopes to receive more in return : 

And patiently wait for thy Lord. 

Koran, Ixxiv. 

" O Abulqasim, lie down on your couch," said 

65 F 


Khadija tenderly, " you must rest. Why do you not 
sleep ? " 

" Sleep and rest are not made for me," said 
Mahomet, seriously. " Gabriel reappeared and com- 
manded me to call mankind to God, and to pursue 
prayer. But who can I call, and who will believe 
me ? " And he bowed his head, dejected. 

" You can at least call me before all others, for I 
believe in you," said Khadija, irresistibly impelled. 

A short time afterwards Mahomet, who had gone 
to the Ka'ba, met Waraqa making the round. The 
blind, old man interrogated him on what his cousin 
had told him, and made Mahomet describe the 
wonderful vision in detail. 

" By him who holds my life between his hands," 
he cried, when Mahomet had finished, " you will be 
Prophet of this nation. The great Namus, who came to 
Moses with the laws, has appeared to you. Why am 
I not younger ? I would help and support you through 
the midst of afflictions that you will have to undergo. 
I would defend you against your own people ; I would 
share your sorrows." 

" What are you saying ? " 

" Yes, no man has undergone what you have 
undergone without being persecuted ! You will be 
combatted harshly, you will be treated as madman and 
impostor, you will be driven out. . . . Ah ! If I 
were younger and able-bodied, if I were alive at this 
hour ..." 

And, taking Mahomet's head between his trembling 
hands, he kissed his forehead, giving great consolation 
and great peace to this tormented man. 

The Prophet really needed all his strength for he 
had himself to fight against before he could fight 
against other men. But the revelation was 



interrupted , the angel had not reappeared and 
Mahomet did not know what to think. Was he the 
victim of an hallucination ? He almost hoped 
so ; for his nature revolted against the super- 
human burden and the awe-inspiring grace of 
this mission. Nevertheless, the silence of heaven was 
unbearable to him. He could not live in this 
uncertainty, so he returned to Mt. Hira, to the spot 
where the vision had appeared, in the hope of again 
seeing it. Nothing came. No word resounded deep 
in his heart ; he found only intolerable solitude there 
and terrible silence. His soul was empty after having 
known inexpressible fullness a slate of longing 
painful to utter, the " dark night " of the soul. 

Mahomet roamed on the hills. Could anyone 
have seen him they would have taken him for mad, 
walking at random for whole hours on the steepest 
slopes, on the edges of precipices, flying from men and 
and flying from himself, in search of God whose 
absence he could no longer endure. Nothing came. 
How tolerate life when it had become empty of all it 
had brought him besides itself? How endure this 
doubt of his most profound self ? To merely exist, 
think, feel, know himself to be living in this agony and 
in this solitude was more of a punishment than human 
strength could bear. The precipice yawning beneath 
those boulders Oh ! to leap into it, destroy himself, 
be lost in its gulf ! Mahomet longed for death. He 
went towards the declivity and touched the edge with 
his foot ; a stone loosened, fell, rebounded from the 
rock ; all was over . . . But at the moment when this 
desperate man was about to throw himself over, he 
heard a voice : 

" Mahomet, you are God's true Prophet." The 
angel led him away from the precipice, and Mahomet 



descended the mountain and went home. Khadija 
pacified and consoled him. Several times he was 
on the point of killing himself in this way but the 
angel always appeared and repeated : 

" Mahomet, you are God's true Prophet." 

The revelation was not repeated. 

At last one day when the Prophet was waiting and 
grieving, begging for a sign and complaining sadly 
of this divine neglect, Gabriel brought him 
consolation : 

(I swear) : 

By the brightness of the morning ; 

And by the night when it groweth dark ; 

Thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither doth he hate thee. 

Verily the life to come shall be better for thee than this present life : 

And thy Lord shall give thee a reward wherewith thou shalt be well 


Did he not find tkee an orphan, and hath he not taken care of thee ? 
And did he not find thee wandering in error, and hath he not guided thee 

into the truth ? 

And did he not find thee needy, and hath he not enriched thee ? 
Wherefore oppress not the orphan ; neither repulse the beggar : 
But declare the goodness of thy Lord. 

Koran, xciii. 

What bliss for this man who could not live in 
uncertainty ! It was not the deep, lovely sweetness 
of this consolation which comforted him the most, 
but the security, the certain duty, and the definite 
command to disclose ineffable gifts. Ah ! Yes, by 
all means, to pass them on ! Why not tell everyone 
at once ? He must tell them at least to those he could 
count on. Denials and scorn were nothing compared 
to doubt of himself. 

The angel had directed him to worship and pray, 
had instructed him in the rites. Before praising God 



he must be pure. The body must be cleansed of all 
its stains, and each time, also, before the faithful prayed, 
he must carry out the ritual ablutions, pouring water 
over his face, hands arms up to the elbows, and his 
feet. Then he must stand upright, with his face 
towards the Lord, proclaiming : " Allahu akbar 
God is greatest " ; and reciting a portion of the Koran, 
bow with the hands on the knees repeating that God 
alone is great ; then he must rise before sinking 
down to the earth again with forehead in the dust, 
sit up, bow down again, and then stand up to 
recommence the same movements before seating him- 
self once more to utter the great testimonial : " There 
is no divinity but God and Mahomet is his 
Messenger ", calling as witness the truth of divine 
promises of the Resurrection, the Judgment, paradise, 
hell and the prophetic mission. 

Khadija, also, prayed according to these rites but 
as yet no one knew it. One day the young 'AH came 
into their room unexpectedly and found them bowing 
down and reciting unknown and harmonious words. 

" What are you doing ? " asked the astonished 
child, " and before whom are you bowing down ? " 

" Before God," replied Mahomet, " before God, 
whose Prophet I am and who commands me to call 
men unto him. O, son of my uncle, you also, come 
unto the one God. I desire you to worship the one 
God without a peer, and adopt the true religion chosen 
by him. I request you to deny idols like El Lat and 
El 'Ozza who can neither harm nor help their 
worshippers. Say with me : 

God is one. . . . 

And there is not anyone like unto him. . . . 

Neither dumber nor sleep seizetk him ; 

To him belongeth whatsoever is in heaven, and on earth. 

6 9 


" Never have I heard such words," said c Ali when 
he had finished. Their charm and beauty bewitched 
him ; their strangeness dismayed him. 

" I must consult my father," he said. This pro- 
ceeding did not please Mahomet very much, and he 
asked his young cousin either to do nothing or else 
to speak with great secrecy to Abu Talib, and only 
to him. 

The child passed a very troubled night and the 
next morning announced to Mahomet and Khadija 
his strong desire to follow them. 

" God made me," said he, " without consulting 
Aba Talib. Must I consult him, then, before adoring 
God ? " 

And so 'AH, converted in his childhood, never 
worshipped the idols ; they called him : " Him 
whose face was never sullied," because he never bowed 
down before anyone but God. 

Zaid ben Haritha, the emancipated slave and adopted 
son of Mahomet, was also converted to Islam, and 
soon influenced the future Caliph Abu Bakr, who 
became a faithful adherent of Khadija's husband. 

The latter was of modest birth (his father Abu 
Qohafa having been fly-chaser to the rich 'Abdallah 
ben Jodh'an, like him also a Tai'mite) ; he had become 
rather well off and even rich through trading. This 
man, comparatively small and delicate, but handsome, 
affable, eloquent and sensitive, had the greatest gift 
of charm. Abu Bakr had a profound influence in 
Mecca ; for he possessed a fund of anecdotes, an 
ability to interpret dreams, and was instructed in 
genealogy great importance was attached to this 
knowledge, just as in all circles with conservative 
ideas, as M. Marcel Proust savs. He was often con- 


suited as to his decision on a murder trial, or to settle 



blood-money. He was impressionable but firm on 
occasion. Often moved to tears they said he could 
never hear the verses of the Koran chanted without 
weeping conciliatory and moderate, he knew how, 
when he took charge of a difficult situation, to solve 
problems unhesitatingly ; but he could also be 
inflexible. Already Mahomet's friend, he became 
his intimate as well as his disciple, and saw him 
every day. 

His adhesion to Islam was useful, as he converted 
many Qoraishites : the Ommaiade 'Othman ben 
'Affan, 'Abderrahnan ben 'Awf, Talha ben 'Obaidallah, 
Sa'd ben Abi Waqqas, and Zubai'r ben ( Awwam, his 
son-in-law, the husband of his daughter, Asma. Abu 
Bakr, however, did not succeed in converting the 
other members of his family : his father, his children 
(especially his oldest son), his brothers, his sisters 
remained pagan until the capture of Mecca and 
strongly disapproved of his attitude. 

The sermons of Islam were kept secret for three 
years during which Mahomet was known as the 
inspired Prophet, and not yet as the Messenger of 
Allah with a definite religious mission. 

His religious conceptions became more precise. 
He lived the life of a zealous ascetic. Following the 
command transmitted through the angel, he passed 
the greater part of the night in prayer, chanting the 
revealed verses which he portioned out ; for, " at the 
beginning of the night the spirit is stronger and its 
message has more significance." His adherents 
imitated him. 

For Mahomet an inner life existed. Undoubtedly 
he was neither a saint nor a mystic like Saint Theresa 
or Hallaj, but he was a man for whom hidden things 
had more meaning than apparent ones , for him the 


invisible surpassed the visible, the spiritual aspect 
was the more important, and in one sense, the only 
actually existent aspect. He grasped the profound 
reality and proclaimed his discovery to mankind. 
Freed from all sham culture, falsehood and vanity, he 
took his stand once and for all on solid ground. An 
absolute realist, he succeeded in practical life when he 
was forced to take his place in the everyday world. The 
great mystics have always been like this. For, the 
visible is the " dial-plate " 1 of the invisible, the 
" roots " of the true plant ; " what is below is like what 
is on high " 2 ; " look first for the Kingdom of God 
and his justice and all the rest will be given you also." 

1 Emerson. 

2 Hermes Trismegisters. 



. . . For we will /ay on thee a 
weighty word. 

Koran, Ixxiii, 4. 

And God said unto Moses " / 
am that I am " : and he said : 
" Thus shalt thou say unto the 
children of Israel, / am hath sent 
me unto you." 

Exodus, iii, 14. 

r ~F'HREE years after the first revelation Mahomet 
* received the command to preach publicly ; 
Preach to those near at hand^ the angel told him, and 
said also : 

O Apostle, publish the whole of that which hath been sent down 
unto thee from thy Lord : for if thou do not, thou dosJ not in effeft 
publish any part thereof. . . . Wherefore publish that which thou 
has~l been commanded, and 'withdraw from the idolaters. 

Koran, v, 71, and xv, 94. 

The Prophet was greatly troubled and hesitated 
without knowing how to begin. He had had but little 
success with his own family. Gabriel repeated the 
command and threatened him ; Mahomet conquered 
his timidity and obeyed. He had, they say, a sheep 
cooked and prepared with milk and sent 'Ali to invite 
the family of 'Abdelmottalib, his uncles, Abu 
Talib, Hamza, El 'Abbas, Abu Lahab and forty other 
persons, all Hashimites. When they had finished 
eating Mahomet stood up and tried to speak, but 
Abu Lahab interrupted him and spoke first ; the 



guests retired before the unfortunate Prophet could 
deliver a word of what he had to say ... 

But the next day Mahomet went to the expense of 
preparing another meal for Hashim's descendents and 
on this occasion he spoke resolutely : 

" Children of 'Abdelmottalib, God has commanded 
me to call you unto him. Never before has an Arab 
bestowed upon his people what I now bring you. 
I bring you blessings from both this world and the 
other. Who amongst you will aid me in my under- 
taking ? Who will act as my brother and helper ? " 

An icy silence followed. Had this man's madness 
become permanent ? Was he trying to drag all his 
kin into this extraordinary enterprise ? They consulted 
together but no one replied, and when Abu Talib 
spoke indulgently, Abu Lahab shrugged his shoulders 
and shut his mouth. 

But suddenly, 'Ali, in youthful enthusiasm, rushed 
to his cousin and cried : 

" I will help you, Prophet of God ! I will break 
the heads and rend the limbs of those who go against 
you ! " 

Mahomet put his hand on 'Ali's youthful shoulders 
and said : 

" Good ! So this then is my brother and helper ! " 

The company smiled, then broke into laughter and 
addressed Abu Talib, pointing to his son, a youngster 
with sore eyes, and swollen belly supported on thin legs. 

" Very fine ! So this is the deputy of God's 
Messenger ! Good ! Now, venerable Abu Talib, 
you will be obliged to obey your own son ! " 

" Preach to your own people," the angel had said, 
" Publish that which thou hast been commanded, and 
withdraw from the idolaters." So after this unfruitful 
effort on his relatives' behalf, the Prophet publicly 



and officially addressed his entire tribe out of doors. 
He hurried one morning to the Hill of Safa and gave 
the ancient war-cry of the Qoraishites : 

" Hen ! Behold the morning ! Banu Fihr ! 
Banu 'Adi ! Banu Makhzum ! . . . 

When the crowd had gathered as if assembled for 
the attack of an enemy or the departure of an expedi- 
tion, and each representative had either come himself 
or sent someone in his place, Mahomet cried out : 

" If I told you that horsemen were in the valley 
ready to attack you, would you believe me ? " 

" Yes," they answered, " we have never heard you 

" Well ! I now tell you important news. O 
Banu 'Abdelmanaf, O Banu Tai'm, O Banu Makhzum, 
O Banu Asad . . . O assembled Qoraishites, redeem 
your own souls, for I can do nothing for you in God's 
presence . . . Listen to what he commanded me to 
tell you ..." 

Abu Lahab then rose and cried : 

" May you be cursed for the rest of your life ! 
Why gather us together for trifles like this ? " 

Mahomet, disconcerted, looked at his uncle without 
speaking. His face grew red and then pale ; his 
eyes twitched ; he could not breathe ; he foamed a 
little at the mouth. Holding out his hand towards 
his assailant, he spoke, but it was really the angel of 
wrath speaking for him : 

The hands of Abu Lahab shall perish, and he shall perish ; 
His riches shall not profit him, neither that which he hath gained^ 
He shall go down to be burned into flaming fire 

Koran, cxi. 

Abu Lahab was a stout, choleric man. He had 
married Omm Jamil bint Harb ben Omayya, Abu 



Sofyan's sifter, and had wedded his son to Roqai'a, 
Mahomet's daughter. His wife detested the latter 
and incited her husband against the Prophet. He 
forced his son to divorce Roqai'a, who re-married 
c Othman, one of the handsomest men in Mecca 
in spite of smallpox scars. Abu Sofyan became one \ 
of the most determined, if not the most violent, 
adversaries of the Prophet, although he had more 
subtlety than the brutal Abu Lahab. He avoided 
coarse insults and when war was declared between the 
Qoraishites and the Mahometan refugees at Medina, 
he came forward as the determined, intelligent, dreaded 
chief of the aristocratic and plutocratic party of Mecca. 
He had married 'Otba's beautiful daughter Hind, x 
so well-known for her amorous adventures. 

In spite of all, Mahomet converted many people, 
mostly among the poor, the weak, the women and the 
slaves, as the first Christians had done. He preached 
with success in the sordid outskirts of Mecca. The 
simple and the oppressed received his words better 
than the wealthy, arrogant patricians of Bat'ha those 
conservatives born with established organizations and 
beliefs, such as they were. 

Without looking on him as a social reformer, they 
were struck by the energy with which he attacked the 
sceptical rich and the mocking Pharisees, especially 
in the beginning, and declared that this world's 
goods imperil the spiritual life. Woe to those who 
refuse to give alms, says the Koran ; woe to those who 
hoard and imagine that treasure will bring them 
eternal life . . . 

The emulous desire of multiplying riches employeth you 

Until ye visit the graves. . . . 

Hereafter shall ye know your folly. 

Again, hereafter shall ye know your folly. . . . 


Verily ye shall see hell ; 
Ye shall surely see it with the eye of certainty. 
Then shall ye be examined . . . concerning the pleasures with which 
ye have amused yourselves in this life. 

Koran, cii. 

The aristocracy remained hostile. The Koran States 
that in each city there are lords who resist the truth. 
It was these who persuaded the people against him. 

The Mussulmans did not dare to pray, according to 
their rites, in the Ka'ba in the centre of the town, but 
met for that purpose on the neighbouring hills, in 
the rugged setting of brown rocks and burnt earth. 
Often their meetings were disturbed or broken up by 
stone-throwers. One day the infidels were behaving 
in this manner and injured Sa'd ben Abi Waqqas, 
a believer, who seized the jaw-bone of a deserted 
camel's carcase and beat his adversary. These were 
the first blows to be exchanged for Islam. 

Most of all, they tried to overthrow Mahomet by 
mockery. When he started to speak they drowned 
him out with ribald songs or discordant cries. They 
sniggered when he passed by in the street and 
encouraged the children to play ring around him. 

'Amr, the young and handsome poet, belaboured 
the Prophet and his religion in epigrams and satires 
even more sharp and dangerous than the worst 
persecutions. 'Amr was a love-child. His mother 
lived on the outskirts of Mecca, and in the door of 
her little house was stuck the ensign of a courtesan. 
When he was born, she assembled all her clients, among 
whom were Abu Sofyan, Abu Lahab, Omayya ben 
Khalaf, together with a famous physiognomist. 

" You see," she said, " the result of my relations 
with you. The one picked out as the father of this 
child may give it the name he wishes." 



The physiognomist attributed the paternity to 
El 'Asi, the eldest amongst the woman's admirers ; 
this is how the future conqueror of Egypt came to 
bear the name of 'Amr ben el 'Asi. 

The Prophet was asked to prove his mission . Why 
could he not perform miracles like Moses and Jesus ? 
Why could he not change the hills of Safa to gold ? 
Why not make the Book itself, of which he talked so 
much, fall down from heaven ? Why not show them 
this so-called angel who came to speak with him ? 
Why not make the dead speak ? He should be able 
to move a mountain ! 

" You would do well to ask God, with whom you 
are on such good terms, to loosen the grip of these 
mountains stifling our town so disastrously," they 
sniggered. " Or it would be enough to make a 
beautiful spring, purer than Zemzem, gush forth ; 
for we really lack water. And as Prophets can foretell 
the future you might as well advise us about the 
approaching price of goods. Cannot your God 
disclose which articles will rise in price ? We should 
like to know these things in order to regulate our trade 
and speculate with certainty." 

The Koran replied : 

Say : I am able neither to procure advantage unto myself, nor to 
avert mischief from me, but as God pleaseth. If I knew the secrets 
of God, I should surely enjoy abundance of good, neither should evil 
befall me, Ferily I am no other than a denouncer of threats, and a 
messenger of good tidings unto people who believe. 

Koran, vii, 188. 

" I am only here to warn you," Mahomet continually 
repeated. " I have a message to deliver. The message 
is important and I am delivering it as well as I can. 
No one performs miracles except with God's per- 
mission. The Prophets of old performed miracles 



and their people scoffed at them or put them to death. 
Even when my words move the mountains, cleave the 
earth asunder, make the dead speak, you will not 
believe them any more than you do now if your 
minds are obdurate. The miracle that I bring you 
to prove my mission is the Koran, a book revealed 
to an illiterate man, which neither other men nor 
geniuses could equal. If you do not listen to me, 
however, God is my witness. I am only here to warn 

Mahomet made so bold as to assail the cherished 
idols of the Arabs by name, sparing neither Hobal, 
the old man of the Ka'ba, nor his wife Manawat, 
nor the venerated goddesses El Lat and El 'Ozza. 
He made mockery of the ansab, those deaf and blind 
statues incapable either of helping or harming, of 
small columns of stone or earth mounds which the 
Arabs sprinkled with blood and destroyed when they 
hoped to find better ones, of the jamarats or heaps 
of stones around which they walked in circles. He 
mocked the idols made into cakes which the Banu 
Hanifa worshipped but ate, if necessary, in times of 
scarcity. He found fault with oracles and with arrows 
drawn in lots. He denounced the immorality of the 
customs, the callousness of the people, the avarice 
of the bourgeois and the greed of the usurers. 

There was a general outcry. The entire social 
order tottered. All the institutions and vital interests 
of the city were menaced by this innovator, who 
perhaps aspired to put himself into power. Also, 
Arab nationalism revolted against a religion that 
claimed foreign revelations and traditions. For 
Mahomet took as witnesses the People of the Book^ 
both Jew and Christian, declaring that they were in 
sympathy with him. Was he about to emulate 



'Othman ben Howai'rith, who had tried to impose 
Caesar's protectorship on Mecca with himself as king ? 

Several important Qoraishites, Abu Jahl, Abu 
Sofyan, 'Otba and Shai'ba ben Rabi'a, Walid ben 
Moghira, etc., sought out Abu Talib to ask him to 
keep his nephew quiet. 

Intimidated by their threats, the old man implored 
Mahomet not to rouse the hatred of so many enemies 
against him and his family, especially since they were 
the most influential persons in the city. At the 
thought that his uncle was forsaking him, Mahomet 
grew pensive, but he answered : 

" O my uncle, even if they set up against me the 
sun on my right and the moon on my left, I will 
not abandon my purpose until God grants me success, 
or until I die." 

He withdrew in tears. Abu Talib, greatly moved, 
called him back and said : 

" O my brother's son ! By Almighty God, I will 
not forsake you ! " 

Although Abu Talib had no leanings towards his 
nephew's ideas, Arab tradition and sense of clan 
disposed him to protect Mahomet. With the 
exception of Abu Lahab, moreover, all the Hashimites, 
without being converts to Islam, united in fellowship 
with the threatened Prophet. His murder would have 
caused a civil war. 

In spite of this they could not save him from a 
thousand insults. Abu Lahab, his wife, the shrewish 
Omm Jamil, his neighbours, threw refuse in front of 
Mahomet's door, which he was obliged to remove. 
They say that Abu Jahl had promised to prevent 
the Prophet from praying before the Ka'ba. He was 
a little, squat man with red hair looking as if it had 
been scorched by the sun ; to the swarthy Arabs he 



was the impersonation of the devil. As Mahomet 
continued to prostrate himself in prayer, Abu 
Jahl threw the placenta of a sheep, sacrificed in 
the sanctuary, at his neck. He endured this out- 
rageous insult, went home and had his daughter 
wash him. 

There were times, however, when a mysterious 
awe overcame the persecutor. 

'Oqba, it appeared, made allowances for Mahomet ; 
his friend, Obayy, refused to speak to him one day, 
reproaching him with believing in this " sabean " 
who passed his time in absurd prayers and ablutions. 
In order to prove himself undeserving of this reproach 
and win back the esteem of the Qoraishites, 'Oqba 
swore by El Lat and El 'Ozza that he was not a 
disciple of Mahomet and forthwith spat in his face. 
The Prophet calmly wiped his face, and during a 
trance, following this insult, a verse from the Koran 
was revealed to him : one day the sinner would 
repent and ask himself with sorrow why he had not 
followed in the path of the Prophet. 

But the insults he had to bear were nothing 
compared to the persecutions directed at the poor 
and unprotected disciples. They were dragged into 
the houses and beaten ruthlessly. Those serving as 
slaves were tortured by their masters. A woman, 
they say, died during her martyrdom. Bilal, the 
negro, refused to reject Islam ; his master laid him 
out naked on the ground under a devouring sun, 
placing a huge stone on his breast and leaving him 
there half-cooked on the burning rocks and dying 
of thirst. 

" Ahad ! Ahad ! " he repeated endlesslv, " One 
God ! One God ! " 

The compassionate Abu Bakr, seeing him there 

8 1 G 


one day in this state, was moved, bought him from 
his master and freed him. Bilal became one of the 
Prophet's companions, the first muezzin x and the 
patron of the negroes. Abu Bakr thus bought back 
many of the misused slaves ; amongst them was 
a negress whom 'Omar ben el Khattab, the future 
caliph, had maltreated. Several people gave way and 
renounced their beliefs. 

These Mussulmans, without a patron, could not 
hold out any longer. 

" If you can endure," they said to the Prophet, 
" we can endure still more. But give us the right 
to defend ourselves." 

" Wait for God's command," said Mahomet. That 
night a revelation was sent to him telling him to endure 
as the resolute prophets before him had endured. 

" At least allow us to leave Mecca." 

Mahomet advised them to go to Abyssinia, a 
Christian country ruled by an upright king, the 
Negus (the Najashi\ who kindly welcomed monotheists 
persecuted for their faith. 

'Othman and his wife, Roqai'a, Mahomet's daughter, 
Zubai'r, Abu Bakr's son-in-law, and a dozen men 
left for Africa to escape their woes and fly to God 
with their faith. They embarked in Abyssinian 
ships at the close of the year 614 and were well 
received by the Negus, who persuaded a certain 
number of other Mussulmans (about eighty) to join 
them in this hospitable land. 

Abu Bakr also thought of exiling himself there 
and had already set out, but thanks to the protection 
of an influential Bedouin sheikh, he was able to stay 
in Mecca. 

1 Mahometan crier who proclaims the hours of prayer from a 



Supported by Abu Talib and the solidarity of the 
clan, Mahomet continued to preach, but not without 
difficulty. One day when he was making the round 
of the Ka'ba, the onlookers mocked him each time 
he passed near them. Having finished, he strode up 
to them and pointed to his breast. 

" Strike me," he said. " Sacrifice me as a victim." 

But the people were ashamed and said to him with 
embarrassment : 

"Go in peace, Abulqasim, go in peace. We know 
your merits." 

His more relentless enemies blamed them for this 
weakness and so appealed to their self-conceit that 
the next day at the same place they in turn fell upon 
him, crying : 

" It is you who pretend that our fathers were in 
the wrong ! It is you who call our gods impotent ! " 

" Yes, it is I who say that." 

The insults turned to blows ; 'Oqba, who decidedly 
wanted to excuse himself for his passing lack of zeal, 
took Mahomet by the throat and fell just short of 
strangling him. Fortunately Abu Bakr intervened, 
threw himself into the brawl and succeeded in pulling 
out the Prophet, not without leaving a portion of 
his beard behind. 

One day the unhappy Prophet went home without 
having met a single man, a single woman, a single 
child, a single slave, who did not insult him on his 
way, treating him as a madman and liar, or insolently 
resisting his exhortations. Cast down and disgusted, 
he threw himself on a mat and gave himself up to the 
saddest thoughts ; but from the depths of his heart 
and his innermost soul came the inspiring voice. 
God had sent his angel to comfort the Prophet. 

In such moments of despondency and doubt of 



the world and himself, the words were more severe 
and gloomy, reflecting a sort of tragic pessimism ; 
the rhythm more violent, the rhymes more crepitating. 

Say, I fly for refuge unto the Lord of the daybreak 

That he may deliver me from the mischief of those things which he hath 

created ; 

And from the mischief of the night when it cometh on. . . , 
Say, I fly for refuge unto the Lord of men, 
The king of men, 
The God of men. . . . 
That he may deliver me . . . from genii and men, 

Koran, cxiii and cxiv. 

Courageously, Mahomet resumed his work, and 
when the time came round for the pilgrimages and 
the large markets, he spoke to Arabs from every corner 
of the peninsula. He even went to 'Okadh. The 
Bedouins listened to him, wagged their heads, found 
that he talked well and went ahead with their business. 

The Qoraishites forced themselves to dis- 
countenance his words, refused to believe this ranter 
whose own family would have none of him. They 
met together in the house of the Makhzumite, Walid 
ben Moghira, to discuss their plan of action. 

" Would you say he is a sorcerer, a kahin ? " 

" No, he has not the emphatic tone, the jerky 
language." " A madman ? " " He has not the 
bearing." " A poet inspired by &jmn ? " " He does 
not speak in classic verse." " A magician ? " " He 
does not perform wonders. . . ." They could more 
easily credit him with being a magician who broke 
up families with his charms. 

They also tried to cajole Mahomet, but uselessly. 
'Otba ben Rabi c a went on their behalf to propose money 
and honours for him, and even to suggest doctors 
to cure him of his strange sickness. 



The leading Qoraishites, the most important 
adversaries of Islam, watched carefully that nobody 
was allowed to be won over. Akhnas was moved 
when he heard Mahomet praying at night, and told 
his impressions to Abu Sofyan and then to Abu Jahl. 

" I understood a portion of what he said," he 
confessed, " but the rest was out of my reach." 

Abu Jahl flew into a passion with this weak creature. 

" Until now," cried the aristocratic Makhzumite, 
" we rivalled the descendants of 'Abdelmanaf and 
Hashim. Like us, they provided for the poor ; like 
us, they paid penances for others ; our families were 
like race-horses galloping in the front. And now 
these people have the advantage over us of a Prophet 
who communicates with heaven ! " 



The Striking ! What is the striking ? 

And what shall make thee to understand how terrible the Striking will be ? 

On that day men shall be like moths scattered abroad, 

And the mountains shall become like carded wool . . . driven by the 

wind. __ 

Koran, ci, 1-4. 

HPHEY nearly always argued with Mahomet 
* ironically. Some of them denied the 
immortality of the soul. Others were willing enough 
to admit that in one sense it outlived the body, taking 
the form of an owl that flew around the tomb with 
plaintive cries, bringing messages from the dead, 
and demanding vengeance if the defunct had been 
murdered. Often they slaughtered a camel on 
the tomb or allowed it to die of starvation, to supply 
the dead person with a steed in the world of shadows. 
But they smiled sceptically when they heard Mahomet 
speak endlessly of the Resurrection, the final Judg- 
ment and the Last Hour. These dogmas, the main 
points in his preachings, appeared absurd to them. He 
answered them that the wonders of creation were all 
quite as extraordinary, and that it was no more 
impossible to be re-born than to be born. 

Obayy ben Khalaf showed him an old bone, asking : 

" Will this be brought to life ? " 

"Yes, and by God." 

Obayy ben Khalaf crumbled the bone between 
his fingers and puffed the dust in the face of the 
Prophet, who repeated : 



" Yes, God will bring it to life again ; he will 
also bring you to life again and will send you to hell." 

El 'Aci, the father of the illegitimate 'Amr, owed 
money to a Mahometan, and said to him ; 

" I will pay you in the next world." 

And Mahomet went into a trance and prophesied : 

How can man be so ungrateful ? What has 
blinded him to such an extent that he can no longer 
see the blessings of his Lord ? When God said to 
the earth and the seven heavens : " Come to me, 
either willingly or unwillingly ", the earth and the 
seven heavens replied : " Here we are ; we are come 
to you in all obedience ". But man is rebellious ; 
man, the king of the earth, proceeding from Adam 
before whom the angels were commanded to bow 
down ; man, " created in most beautiful mould " by 
God who sent him holy books and prophets to teach 
him " that which he knew not ". Ah ! May he 
deliberate while there is yet time ! A day will come 
when reflection serves him nothing, a day when the 
earth shall be reduced to minute particles, a day when 
a monstrous hell shall vomit forth flames in the midst 
of an overwhelming deluge. 

Mahomet loved his fellow-citizens. He sang of 
the glories of Mecca and of his temple which God 
had preserved from Abraha's desecration. He looked 
forward to the union of the Qoraishites and the 
prosperity of their trade. He not only offered them 
heavenly blessings but earthly ones as well if they 
would be loyal. God had shown them special kindness 
in sending the Arabs a Prophet of their own race 
such as they had never had before, as well as a book 
disclosed in their own language. By these means 
they could save themselves from the terrors of the 
Last Hour. And if they rej ected these divine advances, 



there would be no possible excuse for them. The 
fact that God had chosen neither a lofty, rich nor 
learned person must not astonish them. God had 
chosen who pleased him. Woe to them who only 
believed in this world's blessings ! Doubly guilty, 
they would only have their consolation here below, 
and their true life would be lost to them. Why were 
the powerful and wealthy always in opposition to 
the prophets ? 

True, he brought "joyful tidings " to the believers, 
but to the unwilling spirits, dreadful tidings. 
Mahomet was totally possessed by his great intuitive 
message and he no longer had the least doubt. He 
stood up and shouted out his message : 

Concerning what do the unbelievers ask questions of one another ? 
. . . the great news of the Resurrection 
About which they disagree. 

Assuredly they shall hereafter know the truth thereof. 
. . . Every creature which liveth on the earth is subjeft to decay : 
But the glorious and honourable countenance of thy Lord shall remain 
for ever. 

The wicked, the mockers, the ungrateful, the 
sceptics, might forget their troubles, hide their want 
of understanding and misery from themselves, but 
on the day when " the heart comes into the mouth " 
and " the earth shakes off its burden ", they would 
not cut such fine figures ! He who laughs last laughs 
best ! 

And whosoever shall have wrought good of the weight of an ant 
shall behold the same. And whosoever shall have wrought evil of 
the weight of an ant, shall behold the same. 

Koran, xcix, 7-8. 

The Hour is at hand ; the Hour is come ; the 

inevitable Day of Judgment shall suddenly come. . . . 

" God's command is at hand," said the Prophet, 


as the Christians in the catacombs said : " Maram 
atha " -" The Lord is at hand." 

The Prophet called the whole universe to witness. 
God swore by the stars, the heavens and the zodiac, 
by the angels and all creation, by the hours, the dawn, 
the morning, the afternoon, the twilight, by the fig 
and the olive, by Mt. Sinai and the sacred territory 
of Mecca. . . . 

/ swear by the sun and its rising brightness ; 

By the moon when she followeth him ; 

By the day, when it showeth his splendour ; 

By the night, when it covereth him with darkness ; 

By the heaven, and Him who built ; 

By the earth, and Him who spread it forth ; 

By the soul, and Him who completely formed it. . . . 

Now is he who hath purified the same, happy , 

But he who hath corrupted the same, miserable, . . . 

So this succession of terrifying suras ran, depicting 
the Resurrection, the Last Judgment, heaven and 
hell, as well as the warning of the prophets throughout 
the ages to different peoples. 

The heaven shall be rent asunder, the moon be 
eclipsed, the stars be scattered. The trumpet shall 
sound. . . . 

On that day man shall say, Where is a place of refuge ? 
By no means : there shall be no place to fly unto. 
With thy Lord shall be the true mansion. . . . 

Each man must be responsible for his own actions, 
must be the " slave of his own deeds " which will 
be weighed in the balance. God, so tender and so 
filled with love and so forgiving to " all those who 
come unto him ", is the same God who " inflicts 
terrible punishment " on the rebellious, the un- 
believing, the miserly, who never pray nor give food 
to the poor nor consider the orphan ; who deny the 



Resurrection, passing their days in frivolous talk. 
These are the " wicked people " ; they will never be 
admitted into paradise until the camel has passed 
through the needle's eye. The deluge and 
unconsuming fire await them. As soon as one skin 
has been consumed they will be furnished with another, 
and their undergarments shall be of tar. 

They shall not tafle any refreshment therein, or any drink 
Except boiling water, and filthy corruption. 

They shall only eat of disgusting fruits shaped like 
demons' heads or the tree of Zakkum. They shall 
dwell in everlasting fire, at least for as long as God 
sees fit. Certainly, 

Hell shall be a . . . . receptacle for the transgressors, who shall 
remain therein for ages. 

On the other hand, the virtuous believers in God 
and his angels, in prophets and the future life ; those 
who gave alms and aided their neighbours, returned 
good for evil, fed the poor and the captive while they 
themselves hungered ; those who gave themselves 
over completely to Islam. 

How happy shall the companions on the right hand be ! 

They shall dwell in gardens of delight, 

Reposing on couches adorned with gold and precious flones. . . . 

Youths which shall continue In their bloom for ever 

Shall go round about to attend them, with goblets and beakers, and a 

cup of flowing wine : 
Their heads shall not ache by drinking the same, neither shall their 

reason be disturbed. . . . 

Neither shall they feel the heat of the sun nor the 
icy cold ; they shall dwell amongst " trees without 
thorns and well-set mimosas ", under palm and 
pomegranate trees eating the fruits that please them, 
beside streams running with pure water, milk, wine 



and honey. Dressed in silks and decked with bracelets 
of gold and pearls, they shall lean on brocade-lined 
carpets and take their delight with houris " of modes!; 
look, who have never been touched by man or: jinn " 
houris with large, black eyes, ever-renewed virginities 
and complexions resembling ostrich eggs. 

These descriptions of green lands, coolness, clear 
water, sensual delights were such as could easily convince 
these Arabs oppressed by a fiery climate, these 
Qoraishites tortured in the furnace of Mecca without 
trees, shade or streams. They were generally believed 
to the letter and corresponded, moreover, to Adam's 
Eden, for Islam (excepting for certain mystics who 
distinguished between the blessings sprung from 
paradise and the Beatific Vision) did not seem to 
understand very clearly the difference between the 
earthly paradise and heaven properly so-called. But 
this is a point which is not very clear even in Christian 

Aside from the fact that many find these descriptions 
largely symbolical, we must admit that the paradise 
described by Mahomet allows not only sensual 
pleasures. There the greateSl felicities are " the 
pardoning of sins," and the " greeting given the 
elect by their merciful Lord " or the sight of his divine 

God is well pleased with them : this shall be great felicity. 

Koran, ix, 73. 

" God," said Mahomet after St. Paul, " has prepared 
for his worshippers things which no eye has seen, 
no ear has heard, and which have never before reached 
the soul of any human being." 

Thou shalt not hear therein any vain discourse) nor any charge of sin ; 
But only the salutation, Peace ! Peace ! 

Koran, Ivi, 24-25. 



In support of his words Mahomet quoted the 
prophets who came before him and assured the 
people that he was only repeating their doctrines and 
warnings. He recited their stories to show how God 
punished those who scorned his wishes. 

The Koran tells over and over the story of Noah, 
Lot, Abraham, Moses and Jonah. It cites and 
repeats to satiety the example of God's Messengers 
sent to bring about moral excellence and the practice 
of monotheism in the people ; it describes at length 
the punishments that descend on the rebellious. 
How many cities like Sodom were destroyed by 
flames from heaven ! (But only after having been 
warned.) Mahomet was the discloser of Divine 
Mercy outraged by men. During the first part of 
his mission the name he gave to God out of preference 
was El Rahman^ the " Merciful beyond bounds ". 

During all epochs, the people were divided 
according to their attitude into kafirun (ingrates or 
infidels) and moslimun (Mussulmans : obedient and 
resigned to God). In the beginning, the first 
worshippers souls sprung from the loins of mystical 
Adam pledged themselves freely to recognize God 
as their Lord. They must keep their pledge on this 
earth and await the prophets' summons ; as the law 
always remained the same no distinction was made 
between the prophets. According to Koranic notions, 
the Mussulman thinkers looked upon history as a 
cyclic yet discontinuous thing, a pageant of mono- 
theistic but moral experiences, a perpetual alternation 
between ignorance and revelation, idisobedience and 

When Mahomet related the Biblical stories of the 
prophet, Nadhr ben el Harith, a Qoraishite who had 
travelled in 'Iraq, endeavoured to spoil the effect by 



beginning to tell Persian legends and the deeds of 
Rustem and the Isfendiars, which three centuries 
later furnished Firdawsi with his material for the 
Shah nameh^- 

ft Is it not just as beautiful and more so than what 
Mahomet relates ? He is only telling the old legends 
he has heard from the mouths of men more learned 
than himself, and put into writing, just as I have heard 
these tales in my travels." 

There were not only scoffing materialists or 
absolute evil-doers fighting against the Prophet. 
Often in the history of man the abiding question is 
really more complex ; it is not always easy to distinguish 
the true from the false, the good from the evil. Amongst 
the opponents on both sides were honest patriots 
blinded by nationalism who feared for their political 
independence or the spiritual autonomy of their race. 
There were some who were afraid of falling out with 
the neighbouring tribes by forsaking their gods ; 
others feared Mahomet as a claimant to the temporal 
power, which he eventually held through their own 
opposition and the trend of affairs. Sincere and 
upright traditionalists existed like Abu Talib who, 
while defending his own nephew against his enemies 
through a sense of honour and family solidarity, 
nevertheless combated him as an iconoclastic 
innovator, looking upon him as a betrayer of the 
ancestral religion. 

When Mahomet preached to the Bedouins returned 
from the markets or pilgrimages, Abu Talib, with 
no malicious intentions, endeavoured to undo the 
effect of his words. Among the Prophet's determined 
enemies were two men of great worth : the haughty 

1 " The Book of Kings." Firdawsi : an historian-poet of Persia. 



Abu Sofyan and the chivalrous sheikh, Walid ben 
Moghira, who gave his protection to the enthusiastic 
Mussulman, 'Othman ben Mathun, deserted by 
everyone else ; but since these men looked upon 
Mahomet as an enlightened fanatic they were not too 
severe with him. 

In the everlasting fight between tradition and 
evolution, there is not always a fixed criterion ; 
sometimes the new idea is purely negative, sometimes 
merely faithful to the true traditionalist spirit. No 
matter whether in the time of Buddha, of the 
catacombs, of Mahomet or of the French Revolution 
good and evil were always entangled. If the nihilist 
spirit is detestable, a certain form of it called reaction 
is none the less so. Injustice is a disorder just as 
much as anarchy, and the tyrant is often a rebel 
against the true order. 

Sometimes it is traditionalism which carefully tends 
the sacred flame of the life-spirit, and sometimes 
revolution re-lights this flame which its guardians 
have allowed to die down. From time to time the 
Prophet is needed to remind the priest what he is 
living for. Traditions are life itself whose evolution 
is like that of an organism ; they cannot withstand 
the puritanism of abstract reason which tries to sweep 
everything away, although the traditions would stifle 
if they became fossilized. Oportet haereses esse. 1 We 
must always have heretics to prevent this crystalliza- 
tion ; but also, death will be the complete triumph 
of these heretics. For life, whether individual or 
social, is perpetually balanced inconstantly, delicately, 
perilously. Genuine nihilism and jacobinism are as 
deadly as routine and abuses. In every religion mystics 

1 " We must have heretics " (St. Paul). 



and saints are needed endlessly to represent the 
prerogatives of inspiration, which the law is obliged 
to canalize and " canonize ". Thus, the living ethics 
crystallize into " bourgeois " ethics ; it is easy to err 
in this direction ; this often happens. The non- 
ethical in our day make this mistake. As for the 
Pharisees who opposed Jesus and the Qoraishites who 
persecuted Mahomet, we must rather reproach these 
people who wished to crush the great men with not 
being ethical enough instead of being too ethical. 

Not only did madmen like Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab 
and 'Oqba contradict Mahomet, but men of distinction, 
as well, like Abu Talib, or reasonable and relatively 
restrained men like Abu Sofyan. Marcus Aurelius, 
like Nero, thought it a duty to persecute the Christians. 
The martyrs of the catacombs died for truth but their 
persecutors, the old Romans, who had inherited the 
traditions of Cato and Cicero's finest philosophy, did 
not lack nobility. As Jesus foretold, they thought 
to serve God by putting his confessors to death. 
During the Revolution the members of the Convention 
and the emigrants had every serious reason to combat 
each other. Both were right and both were wrong, 
and both forgot something essential. The learned 
are rare who can see the different aspects which each 
thing presents. Often they fight against what they 
believe they worship, and worship, really, what they 
appear to be fighting against. By a paradox, either 
humorous or discouraging, would not some of those who 
defend Christianity to-day have been logically among 
its persecutors in Nero's time ? And would not many 
of the Ulema of Qaraouyine and of El Azhar, had 
they been alive in 615, have fought against Mahomet, 
Abu Bakr and 'Ali, just as certain Christians to-day 
would re-crucify Christ ? 



The troubled Qoraishites sent Nadhr and 'Oqba to 
consult the Jewish rabbis of Yathrib who represented 
the learning of the time and who proposed many 
questions for Mahomet to answer ; Mahomet asked 
for twenty-four hours' grace. But the next day, he 
had nothing to answer, for the angel had not come 
to speak to him. For fifteen days it was the same ; 
the revelation was interrupted. The unhappy Prophet 
spent the nights in agony. To his spiritual sufferings 
were joined the humiliation of a painful situation, 
public jibings, his adversaries' triumph and even the 
doubts of adherents. 

At last Mahomet saw his celestial friend ; his 
ears hummed, a procession of harmonious ideas and 
phrases were imprinted on his soul. He delivered 
the consolation addressed to him and answered the 
insidious questions. 

No, God had not deceived his servant in sending 
him the Book (" an upright book wherein no deceitful 
things were written "), designed to warn men of 
punishments, as well as of divine rewards. 



Whomsoever God shall please to 
dirett, he will open his breasJ to 
receive the faith of Islam. . . . 

Koran, vi, 125. 

A NUMBER of conversions having been effected, 
-** the aristocracy of Mecca decided to punish 
by banishment any new converts to Islam. Mahomet 
immured himself in the house of his disciple, 'Orqam, 
on the Hill of Safa; but his enemies' hatred pursued 
him even to this retreat. Abu Jahl, who met him one 
day on the hill, insulted him grossly and even hit him. 
Mahomet bore this outrage stoically, but his uncle, 
Hamza, returning from the hunt, learned of it. 
Although Hamza disapproved of his nephew's ideas, 
such an insult to a member of his family made his 
blood boil. With his long-bow still over his shoulder, 
Hamza hurried to the Ka'ba steps where Abu Jahl 
was boasting about his heroic deed, and dealt him a 
blow with the bow, seriously wounding his head. 
Hamza was a giant, all of one piece, of Herculean 
strength, extremely courageous and with no cerebral 
complexities. His energy impressed everyone. Abu 
Jahl himself prevented his friends from inter- 
fering, for he recognized that he was wrong to treat 
Mahomet so harshly. He therefore asked pardon, 
demanding the latter's opinions in regard to the 

" Well ! " cried Hamza, " it is time you knew. 

97 H 


Neither do I any longer believe in your stone gods ! 
I testify that there is but one God Allah and that 
Mahomet is his Prophet." 

Anger had produced in his heart what sense and 
persuasion had failed to do. He returned instantly 
to take oath to his nephew and he became one 
of the firmest champions of Islam. 

'Omar ben el Khattab, an impetuous young man 
of twenty-six, very tall, of indomitable energy, a 
nephew on the maternal side to Abu Jahl, went one 
day towards Safa, they say, declaring that he would 
avenge his uncle and punish the false Prophet the 
sower of dissension. On the way he met someone who 
said to him : " Before killing Mahomet and bringing 
down the vengeance of his family on us, you had 
best make sure first that your own family is 
incorrupted. . . ." 

" What do you mean ? " thundered 'Omar. -;/',,,.> 

" I only say what I know. Your sister Amina 
and her husband Sa'id have embraced Islam. Didn't 
you know it ? " 

Without taking trouble to reply, 'Omar turned 
back and hurried with indignation to his sister's 
house. Entering brusquely, he threw himself on 
Sa'id, hurled him on the ground, placed one foot 
on his chest and was ready to thrust his sword into 
his throat, when the astonished Amina intervened. 
'Omar struck his sister. 

" Enemy of God," she cried, her face all bloody, 
" Is it because I believe in God that you treat me like 
this ? Well ! I shall testify none the less that there 
is no other God than Him and that Mahomet is his 
Prophet. And now, finish your work ; kill me, 
kill me, then ! " 

Ashamed of his brutality, 'Omar lifted his foot from 



Sa'id's breast and withdrew into a corner of the room 
for a moment, not knowing what to do or say. 

"What were you doing," he said at last, "when 
I came in ? Show me what you have in your hand ! " 

As a matter of fact, Sa'id and his wife were surprised 
by the ardent young man while reading a sura from 
the Koran, the XXth sura, telling the story of Moses, 
the fall of the devil (Iblis) and Adam's sin, transcribed 
on a piece of sheepskin ; this they had at once hidden. 
Amina hesitated to show him this precious writing, 
fearing he might destroy it. At last, seeing him 
appeased, she handed him the parchment. 

'Omar was seized with an irresistible emotion ; 
each verse imprinted more strongly on his heart 
sympathy for a faith expressed in such a beautiful 

The impetuous son of El Khattab went to find 
his uncle, Abu Jahl, to inform him that he now abjured 
his protection ; moreover he was assured of that of 
El 'Asi ben Wai'l, the sheikh of the Banu Sahm. 

His conversion made a considerable impression. 
When it became public a crowd gathered around his 
house in such a menacing fashion that his son, 
'Abdallah, was very much afraid. 

" Ah ! " said 'Omar to them, "if we were only 
three hundred believers, you would not quarrel 
with us about this temple and you would soon see 
who were the masters of it." El 'Asi ben Wai'l, who 
passed by, managed to quiet the crowd. 

Fearing for his nephew's safety, Abu Talib offered 
him shelter of a sort of stronghold on the mountain ; 
Mahomet hid there with his disciples, protected by the 
members of his family, the Hashimites. The only one 
amongst them who refused to come with them was Abu 
Lahab, who stayed in Mecca with the declared enemies 



of the Prophet. So the other Qoraishites at the inliga- 
tion of the Ommayad Abu Sofyan and the Makhzumite 
Abu Jahl, decided to evift the Hashimites. The 
decree of excommunication was ported in the Ka'ba, 
the firt month of the year 617 It forbade all com- 
munication, all commerce, all marriage, with the 
descendants of 'Abdelmottalib, as long as they would 
not deliver over Mahomet. 

The Qoraishites were exasperated upon learning of 
the Negus's refusal to deliver over the Mahometans 
sheltering in Abyssinia. Mahomet, the scorner of 
ancestry, was allied to a foreign sovereign ! 




Thou shalt surely find those among 
them to be the most inclinable to 
entertain friendship for the true 
believers, who say : " We are 
Christians ". This cometh to 
pass because there are priesls and 
monks among them ; and because 
they are not elated with pride. 

Koran, v, 85. 

' I TIE Mahometans who were obliged to flee from 
A Mecca and the persecutions of the Qoraishites 
had found shelter in Abyssinia in the Christian States of 
the Negus. This country was then at its zenith. 
It possessed a powerful navy and its commerce was 
prosperous, and had, as we have seen, conquered 
Southern Arabia some time before. It was an ally 
of the powerful Byzantine Empire. As it stood for 
monotheism it held a great enchantment for Mahomet's 
imagination ; he declared that the negroes were made 
up of nine-tenths courage. Afterwards he forbade 
his people to ever attack the Abyssinians first ; he 
wore mourning for the death of the Negus. 

This sovereign kindly gathered together the exiles 
and interrogated them on their faith. 

" We were plunged in the shadows of ignorance," 
said one of them, Ja'far ben Abi Talib, Mahomet's 
first cousin. " We worshipped idols, we recognized 
the law of the strongest, when God set up one amongst 
us, a man of our own race, who commanded us to 



profess God's oneness and cast out superstitions. He 
commanded us to shun vice and to practice virtue, 
to be sincere, devout, charitable, chaste. He made 
us pray, give alms and fast. We believed in his 


Still, the Qoraishites sent ambassadors to 
Abyssinia, 'Amr ben el 'Asi, the poet, and 'Abdallah 
ben Rabi'a, to ask the Negus to deliver over the 
Mahometan fugitives. The king had them brought 
into the palace and, in the presence of the ambassadors 
and the notables of his Court and the bishops of the 
land, he questioned Ja'far as to the doctrines he 
professed. Ja'far recited by memory the XlXth 
sura from the Koran entitled " Mary ". He spoke of 
how God sent a child called John the Baptist (Yahya) 
to old Zacharias. Then he told of the Annuncia- 
tion of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and 
of the marvellous birth of Jesus ('Isa). 

He (the angel] appeared unto her in the shape of a per/eft man. 
She said I fly for refuge unto the merciful God, that he may defend 

me from thee. . . . 
He answered : Ferily, I am the messenger of thy Lord, and am sent 

to give thee a holy son. 
She said How shall I have a son, seeing a man hath not touched me, 

and I am no harlot ? 
Gabriel replied : So shall it be : thy Lord saith. This is easy with 

me ; and we will perform it, that we may ordain him for a sign 

unto men, and a mercy from us for it is a thing which is decreed. 
Wherefore she conceived him. . . . 
Ferity (said Jesus} I am the servant of God ; he hath given me the 

book of the Gospel, and hath appointed me as a prophet. . . . 
And peace be on me the day whereon I was born, and the day whereon 

I shall die, and the day whereon I shall be raised to life. 

On hearing this recitation, half-taken from the 

1 02 


Gospels, the Abyssinian bishops were astonished and 
said : 

" In truth, these words come from the same source 
as those of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

'Amr and 'Abdallah, unwilling to admit themselves 
defeated, advised the Negus to ask the Mahometans 
next day what exactly this Jesus was, according to 

And the next day Ja'far declared that according 
to Mahomet, Jesus (prayer and peace descend on 
him) was " the servant of God, the Messenger of 
the Most High, the Verb and the Spirit of God, 
descended into the womb of the Virgin Mary ". 

" Truly," the Negus cried, transported with joy 
and tracing a line on the ground with his stick, 
" between your faith and ours there is not more than 
this little stroke." 

Alas ! During centuries the space has widened, 
the imperceptible stroke now resembles an impassable 

The Negus energetically refused the extradition 
of the Mahometans and never ceased to show them 
the greatest kindness. 

We would perhaps be astonished, after all the 
misunderstandings which have arisen during centuries 
between the two religions, to see such accord between 
dawning Islam and Christianity. But such was the 
case. Mahomet looked upon himself as a Christian, 
as one of a number of prophets entrusted to bring 
his people over to monotheism and to furnish them 
with a book in his own language resembling the 
Pentateuch, the Psalms and the Gospels, often cited 
as revealed books. 

There is no doubt that he was affected by Christian 
influences. Arab hanifs like Zaid, Nestorian monks 



like Bahira (although the latter's history is legendary 
in Mussulman tradition, it nevertheless is founded on 
fact) and Christians of Mecca like Waraqa, awakened 
his religious inclinations before his mission ; he 
afterwards tried to augment his knowledge through 
them but without much success, for they were rather 

The Christians whose various churches encircled 
Arabia had even penetrated scantily into the heart 
of the peninsula. Many tribes were more or less 
Christian. Imrou'lqais, the great poet, who stole the 
clothing from some beautiful bathers so that he could 
have the joy of seeing them naked, was none the less 
officially Christian, as were two other authors of 
mtfallaqahs, Tarafa and Nabigha Dhobyani, and 
divers poets of the time, all of them able, through 
the medium of their rich language, to make hundreds 
of verses on one rhyme in a style as fiery and throbbing 
as the desert wind. 

Mahomet had made the acquaintance of a great 
many Christians in his native town, principally amongst 
the slaves, nearly all Abyssinian, and also amongst 
the Byzantines, Copts, and Arabs of the Christian 
tribes. He was often to be found at Marwa near the 
workshop of a Greek sword-maker, Jabr, one of the 
slaves of the 'Amir ben el Hadhrami. This artisan 
and his friend Yasar, another Christian from the 
country of the Rum, worked to increase the revenues 
of the 'Amir. 

The Qoraishites declared that it was this young 
man who had inspired the Prophet, although his 
tongue was foreign (the Koran tells us) and the Koran 
is pure Arabic. Mahomet, however, never denied 
having gained instruction from the Christians and 
from the Bible stories, primarily. 



The Christians of various origins were numerous 
enough to have their own cemetery at Mecca. The 
blacks formed the mercenary army -of the Ahabish. 
Khadija's hairdresser was a Christian Abyssinian. 
Zaid, his adopted son, came from the converted tribe 
of the Banu Kalb. On one occasion a group of 
Abyssinian Christians on their way to Mecca stopped 
to greet the new Prophet. The fact that these People 
of the Book confirmed his words was one of the best 
arguments in Mahomet's favour to the idolaters. 
At 'Okadh and other markets he met Christian Arabs 
from Najran and Hira, and one time he heard the 
famous Bishop Ouss preaching. According to the 
Koran he saw other Christians in the bazaars he 
frequented, amongst them many Syrians who 
monopolized the importation of wheat. 

Most of the doctors and dentists were Christians, 
and the schoolmasters, whom they sought out in 
Hira amongst the Lakhmides. Abu Sofyan's father- 
in-law and son-in-law ; the husband of Omm Habiba, 
one of the prettiest women in Arabia whom Mahomet 
afterwards married ; Sawda, whose first husband 
adopted this faith in Abyssinia, were all Christians. 

Some Ghassanides dependents of the Banu Asad 
lived in the very centre of Mecca near the Ka'ba, but 
the greater part of the Christians lived in the 

In the workshops of the wealthy Makhzumites were 
hundreds of foreign, Christian slaves, one of whom 
Mahomet frequented particularly. 'Abbas, his uncle, 
who owned a Greek woman slave, presented Mahomet 
with a Coptic man slave, Abu RafT. On the whole 
there were few families in Mecca who did not possess 
amongst their members a certain number of Christians, 
especially amongst their slaves, their freedmen or 



their dependents ; the names of many have come down 
to us. Other people were merely passing travellers, 
like the oculist-monk who cured Mahomet when a 
child with the dust of Sinai', or like the handsome 
deacon who caused such a sensation in Mecca. In 
the main, these Christians were foreigners ; and to 
this can be attributed the reason why the leading 
Meccans suspected the Mussulmans. 

At this time the two great Empires of Persia and 
Greece stood face to face in the battle which mutually 
sapped the last vestiges of strength from these fast- 
dying, although still enchanting, countries. 

Chosroes Eparwiz, destined to be slain as a prisoner 
in the " House of Shadows " (628), but first dethroned 
by his son, Chiroes, as he himself had dethroned his 
father, Hormuzd, and then killed him, was at the 
height of his power. " The firmament revolves 
according to my wishes. I have full treasure-troves. 
The whole country is at work for me . . .," he 
declared in the ingenuousness of his pride. He had 
put together the fragments of Darius's throne decorated 
with the signs of the zodiac, and there he sat in winter 
surrounded by a curtain of beaver and sable, and 
gold and silver balls filled with hot water. Over his 
head was an enormous crown suspended from the 
canopy. His hunts were displays of unheard-of 
luxury : he rode dressed in gold brocade covered 
with golden trinkets, accompanied by young princes 
in red, violet and yellow costumes, by huntsmen with 
falcons on their wrists, valets holding the leashes of 
trained leopards, slaves carrying perfumes and fly- 
whisks, musicians. In order to enjoy the sensation of 
spring in winter he sat with his court upon a great carpet 
several acres in dimension, woven with the design 
of the roads and the landscapes of the Empire, with 



fields, green forests, silver rivers and many-coloured 
flowers. His army comprised nine hundred elephants, 
his harem twelve thousand women. 

Persian influence became all-important in Arabia. 
Chosroes drove out the Abyssinians, and in 614 took 
Jerusalem, captured Syria and invaded Egypt. The 
Christians' defeat seemed complete. The relics of 
the True Cross were plundered and carried into 

At Mecca the vicissitudes of this war were followed 
with the liveliest interest and formed the topic of con- 
versation in the square of the Ka'ba in the evenings. 
The pagan Qoraishites sympathized with the Persians 
and the Mussulmans with the Byzantines ; the former 
were enraptured by the victories of Chosroes, and 
one of them expressed his satisfaction to Abu Bakr 
one day. 

" The Greeks will have their revenge," Abu Bakr 
said to him. " Do not rejoice too soon." 

" You lie." 

" You lie still more, enemy of God ; I wager six 
young camels that the Greeks will be victorious over 
the Magians before the year is out." 

When Mahomet heard them speak of this wager, 
he at once advised his friend to raise the time-limit 
and the stakes. Abu Bakr wagered one hundred 
camels that the defeat of the Persians would take 
place before nine years. He won his bet in the year 
625 when the Emperor Heraclius beat the Persians 
and re-captured devastated Syria. 

The Koran had prophesied this victory and sura 
XXX entitled 'The Greeks bears witness to Mahomet's 
Christian sympathies : " The Greeks have been over- 
come . . . in the nearest -part of the land but after 
their defeat they shall overcome the others in their 



within a few years, . . . On that day shall the believers 
rejoice. ..." 

Mahomet actually did rejoice at Heraclius's victory ; 
he also rejoiced over the death of Chosroes, foreseeing 
that it would hasten the decay of his empire which 
would soon fall under the blows of the Arabs after 
having been weakened by those of the Byzantines. 
The faint-hearted Chiroes, consumed with remorse at 
having murdered his father and brothers, and sick 
with so many horrors, soon died of melancholy. 
Heraclius triumphantly restored the True Cross to 
Jerusalem and in several years a dozen short-lived 
kings succeeded to the weak throne of the Sassanides. 

Mahomet did not conceal his Christian sympathies, 
as the Koran proves in other passages beside the verses 
on the Greco-Persian war. It brings forward as 
examples the Christian martyrs of the first centuries 
and the more recent martyrs of Yemen. It eulogizes 
the monks and the priests whose virtues the Prophet 
extolled to the borders of Syria. And he rejoiced 
because the Greek victory prevented the destruction 
of the monasteries and the churches, " where God's 
name is endlessly called upon." Mahomet regarded 
these People of the Book as the allies who confirmed his 
words, who believed in the truths he predicted, or 
rather in those he recalled (for we are assured that the 
Arab Koran resembles earlier books), and who wept 
with religious emotion upon hearing his revelations. 
Mahomet used this adherence of the learned People 
of the Book as a proof of the veracity of Islam to the 
idolaters who alone " denied the signs ". He 
declared that his mission was announced in the 
Gospels and applied the parable of the good seed to 
the Mussulmans. Even when he broke with the 
Jews, Mahomet spared the Christians and tried to 



keep on good terms with the Greeks, Abyssinians, 
and Egyptians. He reserved his anathemas for the 
Jews and idolaters alone. 

Thou shalt surely find the MO ft violent of all men in enmity again ft 
the true believers to be the Jews and the idolaters : and thou shalt 
surely find those among them to be the mosJ inclinable to entertain 
friendship for the true believers who say : We are Christians . This 
cometh to pass, because there are prietts and monks among them / and 
because they are not elated with pride. 

Koran, v, 85. 

The text is explicit. It adds that the Jews, the 
Christians and the Sabians (a Christian sect, either 
mandaite or ebionite (?) practising ablution, who must 
not be confounded with the Sabain star-worshippers) 
will be saved like the Mussulmans if they do good 
works and believe in God and the Last Day an 
affirmation that the intolerant Mussulman divines took 
a great deal of trouble in trying to whittle down. 
The Koran distinguishes carefully between the 
Christians, and the pagans who " link with God " 
other divinities ; it endows the Apostles with the 
title of moslimun, submissive. 

The Koran allows Mussulmans to marry Christians 
and to eat their food, and this, says Mohammed 
'Abdu, the modern reformer, is an indication of 
genuine fraternity. In spite of certain aspects, it is 
not difficult to trace the Christian dogmas in it : the 
original sin of Adam, expelled from paradise for eating 
of the forbidden fruit, the solidarity of human beings, 
the expulsion and fall of Satan from heaven for having 
refused to worship Adam (as the Christian devil for 
his refusal to believe in the Incarnate Word, 
theologians suppose), the missions of Noah, Abraham, 
Moses and the prophets, holy books, guardian angels, 



the Messiah, Antichrist, the end of the world, the 
Resurrection, and the Last Judgment. In all these 
things Islam shows that it is nearer related to 
Christianity than to Judaism. 

There are indisputable analogies between the first 
Mussulmans and the first Christians ; their courage 
in suffering persecutions, their love of martyrdom 
(the combatants in the holy war are themselves 
considered martyrs), the same taste for prayer and 
pious vigils, for poverty, alms-giving (the monks' 
influence), and even their anxiety about the end of 
the world- 
It may seem a paradox to assert that Islam also held 
to the dogmas of the Incarnation, the Redemption 
and the Immaculate Conception. Contrary to the 
ordinary interpretation it is not impossible to find all 
these things in the Koran. This book grants formally 
that Jesus was the Messiah, his miraculous birth from 
the womb of a virgin, his mission, his miracles, his 
ascension, and the Lord's Supper as well (sura of 
tfhe tfable}. One of the sternest reproaches it makes 
to the Jews is for their vile calumnies of Mary. " God 
has chosen thee," the angel said to her, " and exempted 
thee from all stains. Thou art the chosen amongst 
women." And in the hadiths, Mahomet definitely 
states that all men at birth are marked by the devil's 
claw and that, " Only for Mary and Jesus was an 
exception made." 

As it happens, Jesus' status was exceptional. Born 
a stranger to ordinary human conditions, he is the 
only messenger of God who, in the Koran, discourses 
publicly with God of his intentions and speaks of 
his vocation in the first person. He is the Living 
Word of God and not only the passing executor of 
his revelation. The Koran says he was impeccable, 



whereas in this book Mahomet acknowledged himself 
sometimes guilty of error. 

The Koran speaks like Christian orthodoxy when 
it says that Jesus is the Word (the Verb) of God, 
the Spirit or the Soul (rouK) of God descended into 
the womb of the Virgin Mary, while at the same time 
it speaks of the falsity of not looking on Jesus as a 
normal man. When it mentions the Incarnation and 
the Trinity, what it really criticizes are not so much 
these dogmas in themselves as their heretical interpreta- 
tion. It blames Monophysitism, Eutychianism, 
Collyridism and other Christian heresies of the day 
and not the orthodox idea. A Christian can only 
assent when it is affirmed preternatural to believe in 
a Trinity made up of Jesus, Mary and God. 

O Jesus, son of Mary, haft thou said unto men : 
Take me and my mother for two gods, besides God ? 

Koran, v, 116. 

In the Orient there existed, in fact, sects who 
worshipped Mary. The Collyridians, says St. 
Epiphany, offered little cakes (collyris) as sacrifices to 
the Virgin, like those offered to Ceres by the pagans. 
Afterwards they were eaten. 

Without admitting that the Koran is wrong on the 
question of fact, we must realize that it only condemns 
an erroneous conception of this dogma. (Ibn Hisham, 
one of the Prophet's first and most important 
biographers, like many other Mussulmans, believed 
that Mary belonged to the Christian Trinity.) 
Although it does not say that the Trinity is a false 
dogma, it says : Do not falsely interpret this dogma. 

When it says that God had no children, it speaks 
literally. There is a simple mistake in reference to 



this word, which the Arab language interprets as 
" children ", meaning the actual progeny of a woman. 
" It is unworthy of God .to have a wife and children, " 
says the Koran. " God has neither a spouse nor 

Tet they have set up the genii as partners with God, although he 
created them : and they have falsely attributed to him sons and 
daughters, without knowledge. Praise be unto him ; and far be 
that from him which they attribute unto him ! He is the maker of 
heaven and earth : how should he have issue, since he hath no consort ? 

Koran, vi, 100-101. 

This is obvious. The pagan Arabs really believed 
that the angels, and the three goddesses, El Lat, 
El 'Ozza and Manat, were God's daughters ; the 
Koran contraverts this enormity. In the same way 
when it states : 

God is one. 

He begettetk not, neither is he begotten : 

And there is not any one like unto him. 

Koran, cxii. 

the point in question is not the second hypostasis, 
but the divine substance, of which a Lateran Council 
spoke in exactly the same terms. 

When the Mussulman theologians say that the 
Koran, or God's Word, was everlasting, they merely 
say the same thing as the Christians when speaking 
of Christ's divinity. The Koran qualified Jesus as the 
Word of Allah. In the eighth century St. John of 
Damascus said : "If you say that the Word and 
Spirit of God are everlasting, we agree ; if you say 
they were created, must we admit that formerly God 
had neither Word nor Spirit ? " We might also say 
that the dogma of the Incarnation, without mentioning 
its metaphysical and moral significations, otherwise 



than that it bridges the gulf between man and God, 
realizes in one sense the Mussulman ideal in giving 
God a perfect worshipper worthy only of Him. 

Finally, all that the Koran says in reference to the 
Christian dogma is true, and if it does not contain 
everything that is true, the earlier Scriptures plainly 
complete it. 

The most delicate point is the Crucifixion. 
Historical Islam seems not to have understood the 
idea of the Redemption, although we may add that 
they had no necessity to dwell on it since they already 
had the Gospels, which the Koran corroborates. 
Islam did not look upon Jesus as a saviour and 
mediator. It would seem that the great idea of 
salvation which conquered and transformed the pagan 
world salvation through the blood of Christ and God's 
love for His people for whom He went so far as to give 
His only Son was consequently opposed to the 
Islamic notion of an abyss separating God and His 
worshippers. . . . An intensive effort towards refine- 
ment of the divine ideal, and a conception of 
transcendency not without grandeur, but likely 
to become extremely abstract and to misconstrue the 
great revelation of Christianity : " God is Love " 
with its accompanying illumination of the object of 
creation and the aim of Life. 

The Mussulmans would not admit that God who 
loved Christ could allow him to suffer, be humiliated 
and put to death by his enemies, just as the Jews could 
only understand the triumph of the Messiah as an 
earthly conqueror of the Gentiles in this kingdom 
of the world. However, the Koran declares that to 
kill one man is the same as killing all men, and to 
save one man is the same as saving the human race, 
a statement which reminds us of the well-known 

113 i 


text from St. Paul : " For as in Adam all die, even 
so in Christ shall all be made alive. " 

Mussulman tradition believed that Christ was not 
ignominiously put to death on the cross, but that 
God took Him unto Himself, only leaving in the 
Jews' hands an unreal phantom, or another man who 
was mistaken for Jesus. If this belief (already very 
strange in the light of history and rationalism, and 
which the most beautiful account in the world omits) 
were accepted, the entire fabric of Christianity would 
be based upon a mistake, and accordingly God would 
have founded a religion on a self-committed blunder. 
The belief is based solely upon a rather obscure 
passage in the Koran iv, 156 : they (the Jews) 
say : 

Verily we have slain Jesus Chrisl the son of Mary, the apoftle 
of God. Yet they slew him not, neither crucified him, but he was 
represented by one in his likeness ; and verily they who disagreed 
concerning him, were in a doubt as to this matter, and had no sure 
knowledge thereof, but followed only an uncertain opinion. They did 
not really kill him ; but God took him up unto himself ; and God 
is mighty and wise. 

The only certain sense of this text (which affirms 
the Resurrection more than it denies the death, for 
in the Koran, to be carried up to God and be welcomed 
by Him is synonymous with dying) is, as has often 
been said in other texts (iii, 47), that God defeated 
the ruses of the Jews, foiled their perverse plans, 
and that Jesus in his essence, far from having been 
crushed by them, came out of their hands triumphantly. 
Christianity has the same idea. The Jews hoped to 
annihilate Christ ; instead of dying for ever, he was 
resuscitated. When his enemies thought to destroy 
his work, they unconsciously carried out the sublime 



intentions of the Almighty ; while hoping to do evil, 
they accomplished what saved the world. 

Literally : " For them he was counterfeited " is 
often translated by " a man who resembled him (or 
a " vicarious victim ") was put in his place ". That 
inevitably reminds us of the texts of the New Testament 
and of St. Paul, of the Lamb of God expiating the 
sins of the world, of a new Adam substituted for the 
old, of the vicarious victim who saved the human 
race by his sacrifice. When we think that the actual 
texts of the Koran date from the version of 'Othman 
and Hajjaj, who were responsible for the destruction 
of all the others, and that on the other hand the 
manuscripts bearing neither vocalization nor dis- 
tinguishing points can often be read in different 
senses, we may ask ourselves if the strange passage, 
contradicted, moreover, by the others (iii, 48 ; xix, 
34 ; v, 1 1 7), which affirm the death, the Resurrection 
and the Ascension of Christ, is sufficient to raise an 
insuperable barrier between two religions united so 
closely in every other way. 

Even if we take it as such, we can still find it 
acceptable from the orthodox Christian point-of-view ; 
for the Fathers of the Church say that it is not the 
Son of God whom the Jews put to death and crucified, 
but that only the human body of Christ suffered. 
Understood in this sense, therefore, the Jews were 
not capable of killing the eternal Word of God but 
only " the man who resembled him ", the " vicarious 
victim ", the flesh for which Mary's womb was 

There again the Koran only contradicts the 
Christian heresies, and not the orthodoxy which 
perceived two natures in the single person of Jesus. 

Jesus, placed thus in heaven beside God, must 


return for the Last Judgment, says the Koran ; 
also : " He shall be a sign of the approach of the laft 
hour . . ." (xliii, 61). He shall be an evidence 
against the Jews, who will end by believing in him 
(iv, 157). The misunderstanding between Islam and 
Christianity was caused by the degenerate state of 
the latter in the seventh century in the Orient. It was 
against the heretical sects that Mahomet expressed 
himself ; in fact, he knew only these sects. 
Innumerable Apocrypha, besides rabbinical ideas from 
the Talmud, the Mishna and the Haggada, circulated 
in the towns of Arabia and even amongst the nomads, 
often inspiring the desert bards. The Koran contains 
many traits in common with the Apocalypse of Adam, 
the Book of Enoch, the Protoevangelium of James, 
the Legends of the Saints, the Gospel of Barnabas and 
the Gospel of the Infancy (the legend of the earthen 
bird, fabricated by the child Jesus, which flew away, 
comes from this book). Men like Waraqa must have 
been permeated with this apocryphal literature. The 
Jew, K'ab, who gives credit to Mahomet for many 
Biblical passages, was one of his disciples ; the 
Prophet's cousin, Ibn 'Abbas, made use of the 
" Treasure-Cave " of the pseudo saint Ephrem. In 
a word, the first Mussulmans knew the Apocrypha 
(whether directly or orally) and almost seemed to 
ignore the canonical books. 

Arabia was the meeting place of heresies, 
haeresium ferax, 1 said one of the Fathers in the fifth 
century. It would not have been easy to know where 
one stood amongst the Sabellians, the Docetes who 
denied Christ's human existence (regarding his body 
as a phantom), the Arians who denied his divinity, 
the Eutycheans, the Jacobites and the Monophysites 
1 " The meeting-place of heresies." 



who denied his double nature, the Nestorians who 
saw in him two persons, the Mariamites and the 
Collyridians who worshipped Mary, the Antidico- 
manamites who denied her perpetual virginity, the 
Judeo-Christian Nazarites and Ebionites, the anti- 
Jewish Marcionites, the Gnostics, the Valentinians, 
the Basilidians, the Carpocratians, the Rakusians, 
etc. . . . There is an Abyssinian proverb which says 
that the Christians never agree except on one point : 
the birth of Christ. 

Christianity in Arabia, far from being a school of 
discipline and charity, was divided into sects at 
enmity with one another, and occupied in sterile 
discussions. It is not astonishing that Islam wanted 
to stand aside in these Byzantine quarrels about 
dogmas. Mahomet would have failed had he simply 
adhered to any one of these sects. He naturally 
inclined to place himself above all of them, ignoring, 
moreover, true orthodoxy, and reproaching them 
severely, but justly, particularly for their discord 
(sura v, 17). 

The dogmatic quarrelings of the Oriental Christians 
was a disgrace. After having been persecuted by the 
pagans, the Christians persecuted each other over 
nonsensical follies. They killed, imprisoned or exiled 
each other over the word homoousios or the sense of 
the word physis, nature, which the Nestorian school 
of Antioch understood differently from the Mono- 
physite school of Alexandria. Religion which had 
become above all intellectualist not intellectual or 
even intelligent was debased to mere hair-splitting. 
The scholars gave theological dissertations ; the 
people wallowed in superstition while submitting to 
the contagion. 

" Every corner of the town," said a Father of the 



Church, " is filled with discussion : markets, clothing- 
spalls, money-changers and provision-dealers. Do you 
want to change a gold-piece ? They begin to 
philosophize upon what is begotten and what is 
not begotten. Do you want to know the price 
of bread ? They reply : The Father is greater 
than the Son. Do you ask if your bath is hot ? The 
attendant tells you : The Son was created out of 

A simple, upright spirit such as Mahomet possessed, 
in communication with the truths sprung from its 
inner depths in the deep solitude of desert and 
mountain, recognized religion as something different 
from an elegant discourse. Each individual interprets 
God as best he can, but it is important that he 
be aware of God's reality and submit (Islam} to 
Him. (At a later period, Islamic mystics will 
state how God is the one Reality.) Dogmatic defini- 
tions are necessary in order to avoid errors and 
to give the intelligence the satisfaction which is its 
due ; but the theories on the Trinity, the Incarnation, 
the Redemption would be exceedingly useless if they 
were merely theories, if one did not adhere to them 
" with all one's soul ", if they were not the 
systematizing of the most urgent necessities of the 
spiritual life and of the higher metaphysical 

The abyss separating the Christians and the 
Mussulmans did not actually exist between Islam and 
Christianity. It was only the result of a misunder- 
standing. Unfortunately, however, misapprehensions 
were soon engendered and did not stop growing. The 
People of the Book, although allied with Mahomet at 
first, refused to recognize him as an authentic prophet. 
They laughed at this enthusiastic Bedouin ; and the 



Mussulmans in their turn separated themselves as 
much as possible from Christianity. 

The commentators of the Koran, instead of bringing 
forward analogies, took the greatest pains to deny or 
to minimize them, and laid special stress upon the 
apparent divergences. The Koran, strangely enough, 
is much more akin to Christianity than Tradition. 
Considering the manner in which it was edited, we 
may ask ourselves if it was not still more so originally. 
In all events, it was the hadiths of the " traditionists " 
which raised the obstacle between the two religions ; 
we know how many of these hadiths are vague or 

After the war between Islam and Christianity had 
been going on for centuries, the misunderstanding 
naturally increased and we are forced to admit that 
the most serious ones were at first on the side of the 
Occidentals. At the finish the Byzantine polemists 
who crushed Islam with their contempt without taking 
the trouble to study it (with perhaps the exception 
of St. John of Damascus), the writers and minstrels 
fought the Saracens with only ridiculous calumnies. 
They portrayed Mahomet as a camel-thief, a rake, 
sorcerer, a brigand chief, even as a Roman cardinal 
furious at not having been elected pope. . . . They 
showed him as a false god to whom the faithful made 
human sacrifices ! 

The worthy Guibert de Nogent himself tells us 
that he died through excessive drunkenness and that 
his corpse was eaten by pigs on a dung-hill, explaining 
why the flesh of this animal and wine are 

The opposition of the two religions had not, in the 
main, any more serious foundations than the affirma- 
tions of heroic songs portraying Mahomet, the 



iconoclast, as a golden-idol, and Mussulman mosques 
as pantheons filled with images ! The Song of Antioch 
describes, as if the author had seen it, a massive idol, 
Mahom, in gold and silver enthroned on the mosaic 
seat of an elephant. The Song of Roland, which shows 
Charlemagne's horsemen throwing down Mussulman 
idols, tells us that the Saracens worshipped a Trinity 
composed of Termagant, Mahom and Apollo. The 
Roman de Mahomet asserts that Islam permitted 
polyandry. . . . 

Hate and prejudice were tenacious of life. From 
the time of Rudolph de Ludheim (620) until the 
present, Nicolas de Cuse, Vives, Maracci, Hottinger, 
Bibliander, Prideaux, etc., present Mahomet as an 
impostor, Islam as the cluster of all the heresies and 
the work of the devil, the Mussulmans as brutes and 
the Koran as a tissue of absurdities. They declined 
to treat such a ridiculous subj eel: seriously. However, 
Pierre le Venerable, author of the first Occidental 
treatise against Islam, made a Latin translation of 
the Koran in the twelfth century. Innocent III once 
called Mahomet Antichrist, although in the Middle 
Ages he was merely looked upon as a heretic, nearly 
always. Raymond Lull in the fourteenth century, 
GuillaumePostel in the sixteenth, Roland and Gagnier in 
the eighteenth, the Abbe de Broglie and Renan in the 
ninth, give rather varied opinions. Voltaire, after- 
wards, amended in several places the hasty judgment 
expressed in his famous tragedy. Montesquieu, like 
Pascal and Malebranche, committed serious blunders 
on the religion, but his views on the manners and 
customs of the Mussulmans are well-considered and 
often reasonable. Le Comte de Boulainvilliers, Scholl, \ 
Caussin de Perceval, Dozy, Sprenger, Barthelemy ? 
Saint-Hilaire, de Castries, Carlyle, etc., are generally 



favourable to Islam and its Prophet and sometimes 
vindicate him. In 1876 Droughty none the less 
called Mahomet " a dirty and perfidious Arab ", 
while in 1822 Foster declared that " Mahomet was 
Daniel's little goat's horn while the Pope was the 
large one". Islam still has many ardent detractors. 

As for the Mussulman authors, while during the 
best period of their civilization they studied 
Christianity rather seriously (employing, at the same 
time, easy or Foltairean arguments before Voltaire), 
they generally stressed that which divides much more 
than that which unites ; for a very long time they 
were almost closed round by disdainful ignorance, 
considering as kafirun, unfaithful, the People of the 
Book and the disciples of Jesus, whom the Koran 
declares the best friends of the Mussulmans and with 
whom it commands them to sympathize. Even to-day 
the larger part of the Mussulmans would rather see 
their sons dead or criminals than baptised. 

These artificial barriers have been left for us to 
destroy. Light is all that is needed to drive away the 
shadows. We must remember that the spirit alone 
vivifies. The sense of true relativity does not destroy 
the sense of the absolute. The divine revelation comes 
from the mouths of human beings, adapting itself 
to times and places. Truth does not come to us in 
a ready-made mass. It comes to life with the deep 
consent of our souls. What seems to us contradictory 
is only the refraction of the eternal ray in the prism 
of time. 

Each individual revelation has its special point ; 
that of Islam expressed unity, transcendence, God's 
glory and mercy, as Christianity expresses love. 
Even paganism, while forgetting Him, did not disown 
Him, and exalted Him in its own fashion, declaring 



His manifold blessings and tendering scattered, 
devious and formless truths whose true revelation is 
rectification, purification and completion. Christianity 
really includes Islam and something else in addition ; 
neither explicitly contradicts the other. 

Instead of quarrelling among themselves, the various 
religions should try to compete in worship, ardour" 
and virtue. Through pride and narrow particularism, 
the greater number of people contemplate that which 
makes them different from others to the exclusion 
of the single glory of God. 

Who knows, the Koran appears to ask also, if, 
in one sense, God did not demand a certain 
particularism differing from, fanaticism ? " If God had 
pleased he had surely made you one people ; but he has 
thought fit to try you in that which he has given you. 
Therefore, Strive to excel each other in good works: 
unto God shall ye all return,, and then he will declare 
unto you that concerning which ye have disagreed" 
( V 5 53)- While waiting let each one follow the path 
assigned to him but in all good faith. 

Doubtlessly, it is not absolutely unimportant 
whether deep interior unity is or is not manifested 
exteriorly (the different Christian churches are divided 
by lamentable schisms, for example). Surely, it 
would be more serious to undervalue the deep unity, 
and sacrifice to appearances the real collaboration for 
good and worship, thus paying more attention to 
the letter than to the spirit, to the formulas than to 
the life expressed by them. 

The fact that precepts differ according to time and 
place is not always without advantages for human 
progress. Yahweh permitted polygamy for the 
Patriarchs. The first Christians fought savagely 
against paganism and when the danger was past 



the church tolerated a certain cult of saints who, 
if it is not a mistake, greatly assisted the spiritual 
life. Islam showed itself resolutely iconoclastic, 
/ thereby only permitting Mussulman art to produce 
abstract arabesques in an admirable, decorative style 
during the same period that Occidental art followed 
Greece in its reproductions of nature and the human 
body. Each carried its own work to the greatest 
possible perfection and the aggregate result was 
beneficial to civilization. It would be regrettable if 
we no longer had the portals of Chartres or the 
Alhambra at Granada. 

The reciprocal mistakes and misunderstandings 
arose at the beginning and increased through strife 
and political ambition. 

For Oriental Christianity, so decadent and at vari- 
ance, the conquests of the Mussulmans were a fatal 
punishment and humiliation which, however, might 
have proved fruitful. The time was not yet ripe for 
the great Sheepfold and the single Shepherd. The 
" Saracens " played the r6le of gaoler, forcing Europe 
to stand upright ; the menace of their presence was 
a perpetual invitation to Christendom to ameliorate 
and to surpass itself. 

As to the true believers, and those who Judaize, and the Sabians, 
and the Christians, and the Magians, and the idolaters ; verily 
God shall judge between them on the day of resurrection ; for God is 
witness of all things. . . . (Koran, xxii, 17.) 

Peradventure God will establish friendship bettueen yourselves and 
such of them as ye now hold for enemies : for God is powerful, and 
God is inclined to forgive, and merciful '. (Koran, Ix, 7.) 

The Koran constantly referred to the Bible and the 
Gospels ; for it could not contradict them. It even 
bore with their correction, saying explicitly (x, 94) : 
" If thou art in a doubt concerning any -part of that 



which we have sent down unto thee (the Koran), ask them 
who have read the Scripture before thee" It recalls, 
confirms, determines and celebrates in magnificent 
Arab verse certain points of the ancient revelation. 
It glimpses the future union in the heart of Abraham, 
" who was neither Jew nor Christian, but obedient 
to God/' Abraham, the Father of all believers. 




Ye shall surely be proved in 
your possessions, and in your 


Koran, iii, 182. 

A FTER the Hashimites had been banished, 
^"^ Mahomet, his family and his followers took 
refuge in a kasha of the mountain. The decree of 
excommunication had been written on parchment and 
posted in the Ka'ba. Mussulmen, half-besieged and 
unable to work for their livelihood, suffered at times 
from hunger although, happily for them, they were in 
communication with Mecca, and secretly provisioned, 
although only permitted to leave their retreat during 
the truce of the holy months. The Prophet mingled 
with pilgrims and preached to them. And for three 
years this condition was unchanged. In the end the 
idolaters themselves grew weary of it and murmurs 
arose against the outrageous enmities dividing the 
town. Abu Sofyan seemed to realize that this slate 
of things could not last indefinitely, and also that the 
persecutions only gained sympathy for the new sect. 
Hisham ben 'Amr, for his part, urged reconciliation ; 
he won over Zubai'r ben Abi Omayya, a descendant of 
'Abdelmottalib on his mother's side, as well as several 

The parchment of the Ka'ba containing the order 
of eviction was destroyed soon and most opportunely 



eaten by worms or ruined in some other fashion, so 
that only the first words, " In thy name, O great 
God ! " remained. The Mussulmans exclaimed at 
this miracle and the Qoraishites were impressed. 
Zubai'r suggested repealing the order. 

" How long," said he, " do you intend shutting 
your brothers off from all communication with your- 
selves, leaving them to suffer privations when you live 
in plenty ? Annul this unjust and accursed thing ! " 

" It shall not be ! " cried Abu Lahab, at this. 

" It shall be ! " cut in Zam f a ben el Aswad. 
" Moreover, many others beside myself have never 
given their entire assent to it." 

" As for me, I have always disapproved of it," 
continued Abu'l Bakhturi. 

The assembly was persuaded and allowed Mahomet 
and his companions to return to Mecca. It was 
perhaps at this period that Mahomet was tempted to 
make certain concessions to the Qoraishites. The 
Koran (xvii, 756) tells us that if God had not 
strengthened his Prophet he was on the point of 
going over slightly to the infidels and very nearly 
yielded to their temptations. But the recurring 
revelation which fitted in with the circumstances gave 
renewed courage to the Prophet. What tormented 
him most was the backwardness which the divine 
signs evinced. I do not know whether Mahomet 
believed in the approaching end of the world ; it is 
possible and certain traditions seem to show us that 
he may have believed himself to be contemporary 
with Antichrist. Prophet of the end of the world 
he was, in a sense, but not necessarily in the sense of 
immediate inheritance at the time. When he declared : 
" The Hour and I were sent like these two fingers," 
(showing his index and middle finger), we see that 



Mahomet was essentially the Prophet of the Hour 
announcing with unprecedented emphasis that his 
mission was to dwell on the last days of man and the 
important truth of his Resurrection, most particularly. 

For some years Mahomet had laid stress on celestial 
punishments to his compatriots who had not cared to 
listen to him ; neither the divine judgment nor the 
universal judgment at the end of the world manifested 
itself. The incredulous laughed in the face of this 
preacher whose apocalyptic threats were never forth- 
coming. Was it not natural that he sometimes came 
near to losing confidence ? The Koran said that only 
God knows the date of the Supreme Hour and that 
it will come upon us unawares. 

Mahomet was obliged to endure his lack of 
knowledge with resignation and accept the post- 
ponement ; he needed continual encouragements 
from heaven to comfort him. At last, events brought 
consolation and his success appeared to him like the 
splendid confirmation of promises and the proof 
of his divine protection. Now, triumphant, he could 
laugh at the scoffers while the swords of his faithful 
shut the mouths of the insolent. Waiting for the end 
of the world, he established his sovereignty in the world. 

In spite of the official repeal of the excommunication, 
Mahomet's troubles were not yet over. In 620 he 
lost one after the other Abu Talib, his protector, and 
Khadija, his faithful wife, friend, comforter : This 
indeed was the Year of Mourning. 

Abu Talib was over eighty years of age. Mahomet 
had loved him as a father and despaired at never having 
been able to convert him to Islam. The death-bed 
of this old man became the scene of a pathetic struggle. 
Mahomet begged his uncle to profess the faith and be 
assured of a blessed resurrection. Abu Talib refused 



because he would not have had it said that he was so 
troubled by a fear of death. Mahomet was untiring, 
although Abu Jahl and 'Abdallah ben Abi Omayya 
on the contrary exhorted the dying man not to abandon 
his ancestors' religion. It was not long before the 
old man ceased to speak. His attendants bent over 
his lips but breathing had ceased and Mahomet had the 
pain of seeing his uncle, adopted father and benefactor 
die in the abomination of idolatry. 

" As long as I am not forbidden," he declared, 
" I will ask God to pardon him. " 

But soon afterwards a revelation appeared to him 
which forbade him to pray for those dying openly 
in idolatry. Mahomet was forced to submit, but it 
would seem he was fully assured that Abu Talib was 
the least ill-treated of any of the damned in considera- 
tion of all his services to Islam ; that he was only up 
to his ankles in hell and that its fires would mount no 
further than his spinal bulb. 

After the death of his protector the persecutions 
against Mahomet were redoubled. One day a man 
threw dust into his face and Fatima, his daughter, 
washed him and wept. 

" O my daughter," said he, " do not weep. God 
will help me." 

The death of Khadija took from him the person who 
first understood him the person who had never failed 
to give him the sweetest consolation and the tenderest 
admiration. The Angel Gabriel assured him that 
Khadija possessed a palace of silver in paradise. 
Although she was sixty years of age, Mahomet had 
never dreamed of taking another wife but remained 
stubbornly faithful to her. 

When he decided to re-marry, he chose 'Ai'sha, the 
young daughter of his faithful adherent, Abu Bakr. 



'Ai'sha promised to be a beauty although she was but 
seven years old. The betrothal only was solemnized 
and the marriage not consummated until two years 
later at Medina, when c Ai'sha became the Prophet's 
favourite wife besides being the only woman to enter 
his bed as a virgin. In the meanwhile, Mahomet 
married Sawda, the widow of Sakran ben 'Amr, one 
of the emigrants returned from Abyssinia and deceased 
at Mecca not long after. Although this marriage 
gave her a certain position, Mahomet never loved her 
very much, so it seems. 

For some time he had been looking for a method 
of relieving his situation ; to remain indefinitely in 
Mecca was to consume himself in useless effort. But 
what other town, what other tribe, would give him 
protection and adhere to his faith ? He fixed his 
mind on Tai'f, the charming city of the Thaqifites, 
seventy-two miles from Mecca towards the east in 
the cool mountains where fruit trees grew peach, 
plum and pomegranate unknown in the others parts 
of Arabia. TaTf, unfortunately, was not only renowned 
for its raisins and healthy climate for which the wealthy 
of Mecca adopted it as summer resort but was, as well, 
the centre of worship of El Lat, one of God's daughters, 
and possessed a statue of this goddess greatly venerated 
by the Thaqifites. For a month the Prophet sojourned 
unsuccessfully in this town, exposed to insults and 
sometimes the assaults of the populace. 

" If God had wanted to send a prophet," one of 
them said to him, " could he not have chosen a better 
one than you ? " 

Children and street-loungers shouted ironically 
at him ; people threw stones at him ; hostile crowds 
surrounded him. He sought shelter in a corner, in 
the shadow of a wall of a house where lived Shaiba 

129 K 


and 'Otba at this time of year, the two sons of Rabi'a 
the Qoraishite, The people withdrew and the 
unfortunate Prophet was left alone at the foot of a vine 
growing on the wall. From a window the two brothers 
watched him while he lamented to God. 

" I seek refuge in you, O my God, against my weak- 
ness and my want of power. You are the God of the 
weak. You are my Saviour and my God. Are you 
abandoning me to strangers, to my enemies ? I fear 
nothing unless I am the object of your anger. I take 
refuge in the light of your countenance which 
strengthens this world and the world beyond. In 
you only exist power and aid." 

Much affected at hearing him pray in this manner, 
the two brothers sent one of their slaves, Addas, 
with a bunch of grapes for him. Addas, being a 
Christian, noticed that Mahomet said : BismilJah, 
" In God's name," before eating. 

" The people do not say that in this country," he said. 

" What is your land and your religion, then ? " 
said Mahomet. 

" I am a Christian of Nineveh." 

" That is the city of Jonah, the Prophet." 

" How did you come to hear of Jonah ? " 

" He was a Prophet, as I am." 

In finding a sort of fellow-believer in this idolatrous 
country, the Christian slave was moved ; he threw 
himself at Mahomet's feet, kissing his shoulders and 
hands. The two brothers were watching the scene 
from a distance. 

" See ! He has won over your slave," said Shai'ba 
to 'Otba. And when the man came in he reproved him 
for his attitude. 

" Be careful ; this man will dissuade you from your 
own religion which is worth more than his." 



Mahomet was driven out of Tai'f by the inhabitants 
who followed him with their insults to a certain distance 
outside the walls. He willingly would have returned 
to Mecca but not without the certainty of a patron. 
Zaid, so attached to him that he had come with 
Mahomet, looked for someone to play this r6le. El 
Akhnas ben Sharif and Sohai'l ben c Amr, were sounded 
first and either could not or would not accept it. 
At Nakhla, Mahomet waited to hear the result of their 
negotiations, praying to God in his desperation not 
to blame him for the ill-success of his preachings 
amongst the Thaqifites. 

One night while praying and reciting from the 
Koran under a palm-tree in a solitary spot, he was 
overheard by a company of jinns. "Listen ! Listen !" 
said these spirits with bodies of fire, but mortal like 
man ; although their spans are much longer, they are 
destined like him to a future life of reward or punish- 
ment according to their deserts. Enticed by the beauty 
of the verses, these mysterious beings were converted 
to Islam, relates the y2nd sura of the Koran, in which 
the Prophet informs us of this astonishing adventure. 
At least the spiritual forces were with him if men drove 
him off. The jinns, whom the Arabs worshipped so 
superstitiously, were actually converted. What were 
the idolaters to think of this ? 

At last, El Mut'im ben c Adi agreed to take 
Mahomet under his protection and the Prophet was 
able to return to Mecca. The markets were in season 
and he was to be found in them preaching with the 
hope of gaining the support of a number of tribes. 
The Banu Hanifa refused to listen to him. The 
Banu 'Amir might perhaps have been led by him 
but with the sole and worldly aim of possibly 
governing the country through him. He refused 


to allow himself to be utilized for political 

At this same period the Prophet had the famous 
vision known as the Nocturnal Ascension, which has 
given rise to so many commentaries. In the middle 
of a solemn, quiet night when even the nightbirds 
and the rambling beasts were quiet, when the streams 
had stopped murmuring and no breezes played, 
Mahomet was awakened by a voice crying : " Sleeper, 
awake ! " And before him stood the Angel Gabriel 
with radiant forehead, countenance white as snow, 
floating blond hair, in garments sewn with pearls and 
embroidered in gold. Manifold wings of every colour 
stood out quivering from his body. 

He led a fantastical steed, Boraq, " Lightning," 
with a human head and two eagles' wings ; it 
approached Mahomet, allowed him to mount and 
was off like and! arrow over the mountains of Mecca 
and the sands of the desert towards the North . . . The 
Angel accompanied them on this prodigious flight. 
On the summit of Mt. Sinai', where God had spoken 
to Moses, Gabriel stopped Mahomet for prayer, and 
again at Bethlehem where Jesus was born, before 
resuming their course in the air. Mysterious voices 
attempted to detain the Prophet, who was so wrapped 
up in his mission that he felt God alone had the right 
to stop his steed. When they reached Jerusalem 
Mahomet tethered Boraq and prayed on the ruins of 
the Temple of Solomon with Abraham, Moses and 
Jesus. Seeing an endless ladder appear upon Jacob's 
rock, the Prophet was enabled to mount rapidly to 
the heavens. 

The first heaven was of pure silver and the stars 
suspended from its vault by chains of gold ; in each 
one an angel lay awake to prevent the demons from 



climbing into the holy dwelling-places and the spirits 
from listening indiscreetly to celestial secrets. There, 
Mahomet greeted Adam. And in the six other 
heavens the Prophet met Noah, Aaron, Moses, 
Abraham, David, Solomon, Idris (Enoch), Yahya 
(John the Baptist) and Jesus. He saw the Angel of 
Death, Azrai'l, so huge that his eyes were separated by 
70,000 marching days. He commanded 100,000 
battalions and passed his time in writing in an immense 
book the names of those dying or being born. He 
saw the Angel of Tears who wept for the sins of the 
world ; the Angel of Vengeance with brazen face, 
covered with warts, who presides over the element of 
fire and sits on a throne of flames ; and another 
immense angel made up half of snow and half of fire 
surrounded by a heavenly choir continually crying : 
" O God, Thou hast united snow and fire, united all 
Thy servants in obedience to Thy Laws." In the 
seventh heaven where the souls of the just resided was 
an angel larger than the entire world, with 70,000 
heads ; each head had 70,000 mouths, each mouth 
had 70,000 tongues and each tongue spoke in 70,000 
different idioms singing endlessly the praises of the 
Most High. 

While contemplating this extraordinary being, 
Mahomet was carried to the top of the Lote-Tree of 
Heaven flowering at the right of God's invisible throne 
and shading myriads of angelic spirits. Then after 
having crossed in a twinkling of an eye the widest 
seas, regions of dazzling light and deepest darkness, 
traversed millions of clouds of hyacinths, of gauze, 
of shadows, of fire, of air, of water, of void, each one 
separated by 500 marching years, he then passed 
more clouds of beauty, of perfection, of supremacy, 
of immensity, of unity, behind which were 70,000 



choirs of angels bowed down and motionless in 
complete silence. The earth began to heave and he 
felt himself carried into the light of his Lord, where he 

^~s * 

was transfixed, paralysed. From here heaven and 
earth combined appeared as if imperceptible to him, 
as if melted into nothingness and reduced to the size 
of a grain of mustard-seed in the middle of a field. 
And this is how Mahomet admits having been before 
the Throne of the Lord of the World. 

He was in the presence of the Throne " at a 
distance of two bows' length or yet nearer " (Koran liii), 
beholding God with his soul's eyes and seeing things 
which the tongue cannot express, surpassing all human 
understanding. The Almighty placed one hand 
on Mahomet's breast and the other on his shoulder 
to the very marrow of his bones he felt fin icy chill, 
followed by an inexpressible feeling of calm and 
ecstatic annihilation. 1 

After a conversation whose ineffability is not 
honoured by too precise tradition, the Prophet 
received the command from God that all believers 
must say fifty prayers each day. Upon coming down 
from heaven Mahomet met Moses, who spoke with 
him on this subject : 

" How do you hope to make your followers say 
fifty prayers each day ? I had experience with mankind 

1 Mohammad was . . . suspended at the furthesT: limit 01 
creation. . . . His gaze, detached for the moment from human 
beings . . . was dire&ly absorbed by an infinite Being so incom- 
prehensible that he had to admit himself powerless to praise him 
worthily. This simple, negative vision definitely clarified his faith, 
giving him sakinah, without uniting 'with God; his mission was to 
extol the Judge who isolates his divinity from all human beings as 
Moses extolled the Law-Giver, and Jesus the Spirit which united 
humanity with God. (Cf. L. Massignon, Al-Hallaj, martyr mystique 
de I'islam, Paris, 1922, p. 743.) 



before you. I tried everything with the children of 
Israel that it was possible to try. Take my word, 
return to our Lord and ask for a reduction." 

Mahomet returned, and the number of prayers was 
reduced to forty. Moses thought that this was still 
too many and made his successor go back to God a 
number of times. In the end God exacted not more 
than five prayers. 

Gabriel then took the Prophet to paradise where 
the faithful rejoice after their resurrection an immense 
garden with silver soil, gravel of pearls, mountains 
of amber, filled with golden palaces and precious 

Finally, after returning by the luminous ladder to 
the earth, Mahomet untethered Boraq, mounted 
the saddle and rode into Jerusalem on the winged 

It has been discussed at length whether the 
Nocturnal Ascension of the Prophet was made in the 
flesh or in the spirit. It is asserted that he saw real 
caravans on the road between Jerusalem and Mecca 
whose approaching arrivals he was able to presage. 
Furthermore, he found his way back to his room in time 
to pick up ajar, which stood beside his bed and which 
the angel had upset with his wing on his departure, 
before all the water had flowed out of it. Legend 
even relates that the Patriarch of Jerusalem saw 
traces of the Prophet's visit in the temple the following 
day. Many embrace the opinion that the trip to 
Jerusalem both ways on Boraq actually happened 
and that the ascent to heaven took place only in the 
spirit. These discussions, filling volumes, seem 
rather trifling, and there is no means of distinguishing 
the Nocturnal Ascension from other visions of Prophets 
and mystics, either authentic or not. What is most 



interesting is the attempt at spiritual meditation which 
many Mussulman mystics have made using this 
theme as a base. 

The following day when Mahomet told the 
happening to his uncle, El 'Abbas, and his cousin 
Omm Hani, they advised him to speak to no one about 
it ; his very friends would not have been able to 
believe such a tale and his adversaries would have used 
it to make him ridiculous. The Prophet believed, 
however, that it was his duty to make known all that 
had been revealed to him. He seated himself in the 
square of the Ka'ba. Abu Jahl, happening to pass, 
asked him if he had any news and Mahomet told him 
that he had passed the night at Jerusalem. 

" And are you already back ? " laughed Abu Jahl 
calling the passers-by to come and listen to this comic 

Mahomet told them the story of his night, describing 
the Temple of Jerusalem and the inhabitants of 
the seven heavens. Abraham resembled himself, he 
said, although he was a giant. Moses was dark with 
slightly wavy hair. Jesus was of medium height and 
strength with a pink and white complexion and 
straight hair. 

" As for John, Zacharias's son, he is a little thick- 
set man, with red hair looking as if it had been burnt 
by the sun. He looks like you, Abu Jahl, and like 
you too, O Maktam, son of Abu'l Hur ..." 

Most of those present, including the most kindly 
disposed to Mahomet, did not know what to think 
and raised their hands to their brows in gestures of 
astonishment. Certain amongst them accused him of 
being a liar or a madman ; and several even of those 
most devoted to him were shaken in their devotion. 

They went to tell Abu Bakr about it. 



" Did the Messenger of God tell you that ? " 
said he. 

" Yes." 

" Well," said he, " then it is true." 

Abu Bakr's attitude confirmed several of the 
undecided, and Mahomet, out of gratitude for the 
unshakeable faith of his friend, gave him the nick- 
name of es Seddiq^ the Veracious. 






An aftion mutt be judged by its 
intention. The emigration of him 
who goes forth to obtain material 
advantages or to find a wife shall 
count only for the worth of the 
intention which prompted the 

Mahomet (Bokhari, i). 

Then Peter said, Lo, we have 
left all, and followed thee. And 
he said unto them, Verily I say 
unto you, There is no man that 
hath left house, or parents, or 
brethren, or wife, or children, 
for the kingdom of God's sake, 
zoho shall not receive manifold 
?nore in this present time, and in 
the world to come life everlasting. 
St. Luke xviii, 2830. 

the desert plain of c Aqaba of Mina at the foot 
of a forbidding mountain the pilgrims of 
Yathrib performed the thousand-year-old magic rite 
of throwing stones against a small column ; then, 
night having come on, they went into their tents 
and slept. The victims had been sacrificed and the 
pilgrimage was over. 

Not all of them, however, really slept. Just 
before midnight seventy-five of them arose noiselessly 



and went towards the plain of 'Aqaba, seating them- 
selves on the rocks to wait in silence. It was a solemn 
and decisive moment. Doubtless, these men did 
not realize that this midnight gathering marked a 
turning-point in the history of the world ; yet they 
did realize the gravity of their act. These were the 
Mussulmans of Yathrib converted by Mus'ab ben 
'Omair and a secret meeting with the Prophet had 
been arranged. 

The year before (621) in the same spot and under 
similar conditions Mahomet had met twelve pilgrims 
from Yathrib who took an oath, in their own names 
and in those of their absent wives, to associate no 
other creature with God, not to steal, not to commit 
adultery, not to kill their children even though they 
found themselves too poor to nourish them, not to 
slander, and to obey the Prophet in all things 

These Arabs of Yathrib, accustomed to the mono- 
theistic idea through association with their Jewish 
allies, now wondered whether this extraordinary man 
was not the Prophet so often spoken of by the children 
of Israel, whose coming was to announce the end of 
the world. In that case, it were better to adhere to 
him from the first. Some of them, however, hoped 
that his coming to Yathrib would bring peace to the 
city, long torn by a ruinous civil war between the 
rival tribes of the Aws and the Khazraj. 

These circumstances shaped the destiny of 
Mahomet. For more than ten years he had preached 
in vain to his fellow-townsmen. After having sacrificed 
his comfort, his fortune and his peace of mind, 
Mahomet reached middle age without any dream of 
retiring in peace and tranquillity ; on the contrary, 
he was ready to make new sacrifices. Spurred on by 



unexpected support, he began to think of exiling him- 
self and so embark on the great adventure. The people 
of Yathrib would give him, perhaps, the support he 
had failed to find either amongst his own people or 
those of Tai'f. 

It was midnight. Several men draped in white 
climbed the slope Mahomet and the Mussulmans of 
Mecca. Mahomet addressed a pathetic speech to the 
converts of Yathrib and recited from the Koran. 
He implored them to worship openly the true God and 
to follow him, God's Prophet, through both good and 
evil fortune, to give to the faithful of Mecca the same 
protection they would afford to their own wives and 

" Yes," called forth one of them named El Barra', 
"in the name of Him who sent you with the Truth, 
we shall defend you and yours as we would our own 
wives and children. We have inherited courage from 
our ancestors." 

" We agree to march under your banner, O 
Messenger of God," said Abu'l Haitham, " but what 
proof will you give us that you will remain for ever 
with us, that you will not some day return to your 
own countrymen ? " 

" Your blood shall be my blood and your cause shall 
be my cause," replied Mahomet. " Henceforth you 
belong to me and I belong to you. Your enemies 
shall be my enemies and I shall be the friend of your 

The gathering then declared itself satisfied and 
willing to take oath. Then the Khazrajite El 'Abbas 
ben 'Obada addressed his countrymen with these 
words : 

" Do you fully realize what you are doing when you 
swear allegiance to this man ? For you must know 



all that you commit yourselves to. It means that you 
must follow him in battle against the red man and 
the black man against the whole world ; if you are 
not prepared to follow him to the very end, if one day 
you are to abandon him finding the task too heavy, 
it would be far better to do so to-day. But if you 
feel that you are sure to remain faithful, though it 
cost you all your possessions and your chiefs, then 
take the oath ; it will be advantageous to you in 
both worlds." 

" We solemnly promise ! We shall follow him 
always ! " they cried. ' But, O Messenger of God, 
what will be our reward if we die for you ? " 

" Paradise ! " answered Mahomet. 

" Give us your hand." 

He stretched his hand towards them and thev all 


swore faith unto him. El Barra' was the first to touch 
his hand ; when all of them, including two women, 
had done the same, El 'Abbas ben 'Obada said to 
Mahomet : 

" In the name of Him who sent you to us with the 
Truth, to-morrow, if you wish it, we will attack the 
idolaters of Mina ! " 

" I have not received such an order from God," 
replied Mahomet. " Return in peace." 

It was at this taking of the oath for the second time 
at c Aqaba, known as the " the men's oath " (the oath 
of the previous year was known as " the women's 
oath "), that the principle of the holy war was proposed 
for the first time. Until then, God had not permitted 
his Prophet to draw the sword ; for the Koran 
contained only exhortations of patience. During 
thirteen years Mahomet and his followers had answered 
persecution by gentleness and forgiveness. Hence- 
forth, the Mussulmans were permitted to render blow 



for blow, but only when the specific order came from 
on high. 

As the gathering was dispersing, the conspirators 
heard a mysterious, threatening voice coming from 
behind the rocks of Mina. This strange cry in the 
night troubled them greatly, but Mahomet (they say) 
declared it to be the voice of the demon, from whom they 
had nothing to fear, telling them to enter their tents 
and sleep peacefully. Could the mysterious voice 
have been a spy sent by the Qoraishites ? 

Mahomet ordered his followers to go to Yathrib 
in small groups. About a hundred men and women 
thus exiled themselves and the Prophet remained with 
'AH and Abu Bakr although the latter also wanted 
to go to Yathrib. 

" Do not be impatient," said Mahomet, " Wait 
for me, for I, too, soon hope to be authorized (by God) 
to emigrate." 

" Really ! You expect that ? " exclaimed Abu 
Bakr in great joy. " I would give my father and my 
mother to redeem you ! " 

Abu Bakr therefore made arrangements to take 
flight at the same time as his friend ; and held in 
readiness two swift she-camels that had been fed for 
four months on the leaves of the samara. 

Mahomet came to his house every evening, but 
one day he arrived at noon. 

" Something serious has happened," Abu Bakr 
said to himself. 

" Make everyone leave who is under your roof," 
Mahomet whispered. 

" Only my two daughters, c Ai'sha and Asma, are 

" Very well, I have just received the authorization 
to leave." 


" Then I shall accompany you, O Messenger of 
God 1 " 

" You may accompany me." 

All had been carefully prepared. Had the 
Qorashites known of Mahomet's attempt to leave, 
they might have killed him. The story goes that 
( Ali lay in Mahomet's bed wrapped in the Prophet's 
green cloak, well-known to everyone. The Prophet 
then went to Abu Bakr's house and they fled together. 
For three days and three nights they hid in a cave 
on Mt. Thawr three miles from Mecca to the south- 
west, on the other side from the road to Yathrib. 

The time was past for patiently bearing persecution, 
for turning the other cheek. Islam must either conquer 
or die. Other prophets had come and had performed 
miracles but the people had put them to death 
or held them in derision. Mahomet performed 
no miracles ; neither did he intend to allow himself 
to be put to death. He had tried gentle persuasion, 
he had borne every manner of persecution, he had 
been spared nothing. Now, the last one, he must 
fly with Abu Bakr, hiding under his cloak the flickering 
flame of the new faith. Other prophets had come with 
miracles and holy words. Now Mahomet had come 
with the sword. 

A new life had begun for him. Hereafter he must 
be a general and the chief of a state. Without ceasing 
to be an inspired prophet declaiming the suras, he 
must be a political leader. Perhaps at times he looked 
back on the past with longing. Perhaps in the midst 
of harsh realities that destroyed his dream, in the midst 
of the ebb and flow of earthly matters, he longed for 
the days spent in the exaltation of solitary meditation 
in the cave on Mt. Hira, the days when he preached 
in secret to Khadija, 'Ali and Zaid, the days when he 



cried aloud in the Ka'ba that there was but one 
living God. 

And so, too, perhaps in the midst of the voluptuous 
pleasures of the harem amongst his nine wives, some 
selected for love and others for political reasons, he 
longed for the pure joys of his fireside with the gentle 
Khadija. A new life indeed . . . 

At this moment he was taking away with him the 
germ of salvation rejected by his fellow-citizens, the 
seed which later must be preserved beneath a dome of 
steel ; for paradise lies in the shadow of the sword. 
With his faith, he fled from the midnight treachery 
of his countrymen. The pale moon lengthened their 
two shadows on the sand. Could they escape the 
pursuit of an entire city, the pursuit of those Arabs 
so skilful in detecting traces ? They hid in the cave. 

Abu Bakr was a man of fifty. He was rather thin, 
a little bent, with high forehead and thin face. His 
brilliant, black eyes were deep-set ; the veins stood 
out on his bony hands as well cared for as those of 
a rich merchant. But to-day he found no time to 
dye his beard with henna. 

Abu Bakr left most of his riches in Mecca, taking 
with him only 5,000 derhems. His eldest son, 
'Abderrahman, the erotic poet, was violently opposed 
to Islam and severely condemned what he considered 
a streak of madness in his father. 'Abdallah, his 
other son, was devoted, however. He passed the night 
with them, then returned to Mecca before dawn to 
hear what was being said during the day before going 
back to the kindly shadows again. His alert, subtle 
intelligence could be relied on. Asma, his sister, 
likewise came in the evening. c Amir ben Fohai'ra, 
one of Abu Bakr's freedmen, pretending to lead his 
flock to pasture, came each morning to awaken the 



fugitives, leaving them a roasted sheep and a milk- 
giving ewe. The days passed anxiously. The two 
men drank fresh milk and heated what remained on 
the rocks to keep it from turning. The Qoraishites 
searched the entire countryside. Mahomet, rigid 
as a stretched bow, prayed ; quicker than the flight 
of an arrow his prayer mounted to the one Being 
without whom no creature can exist, without whom the 
mountains would collapse, the stars crumble into dust, 
the light of the sun go out, and all souls perish. 

Abu Bakr was on guard. He heard voices. Armed 
men, mounted on swift camels, kept watch on all 
sides. They met a shepherd, questioned him, and 
Abu Bakr could hear their words distinctly. 

" Perhaps," said the man, " they are in that cave. 
I have seen no one, but it is possible to hide there." 

Abu Bakr was in a cold sweat an anxiety, almost 
voluptuous, to hide himself, to become motionless, 
breathless, a passive instrument in the hands of 
fate. He touched Mahomet's shoulder. Mahomet 
did not stir ; the cave was marvellously calm and 
cool and dark, a sphere of shade in the midst of the 
hostile heat of the burning desert. 

" Fear nothing, God will protect us," he said simply. 

The men having searched the vicinity approached 
the cave. Thev climbed the mountain-side to the 


entrance which was rather wide, although from the 
outside nothing but a very small hole was visible. 
Several of the Qoraishites had by now reached the 
opening. The men in hiding heard their footsteps 
above them. 

" If one of them should happen to look down," 
said Abu Bakr, " he would see us." 

" O, Abu Bakr, what do you think can befall two 
men who have God as a third companion ? " 



The Qoraishites were near the entrance of the cave. 
Mahomet prayed. 

It was then that the miracle happened a harmony 
of the soul of man and the outer world. In the arid 
crack of the rock, a mountain shrub had sprouted. 
It seemed suddenly to grow ; its branches gripped the 
rocks ; its graceful tendrils stood up in the air until 
almost all of the cave entrance was covered. In its 
shadow, a dove lay cooing. And a spider, performing 
its daily miracle, spread the intricate, geometrical 
pattern of its web. Between the light of the outside 
and the cool darkness of the cave extended the delicate 
threads at the end of which the spider balanced himself, 
climbed up, descended, and finally came to rest in 
the middle, lying in wait for his victim. And the 
white dove the bird of love laid her eggs in the 
sand. The male fluttered about her there at the 
entrance of the cave, their home. What joy on the earth, 
what love and peace in this tiny corner of the world ! 

These three things are the only miracles recorded 
in authentic Mussulman history : the web of a spider, 
the love of a dove, the sprouting of a flower three 
miracles accomplished daily on God's earth. 

" Let us go into the cave," said one of the pursuers. 

" Oh, no," said Omayya ben Khalaf, " there is 
nothing in there but spiders' webs older than Mahomet 

Abu Bakr flattened himself against the wall in 
the farthest corner of the cave. The Qoraishites 
looked into the dark hole. They saw the dove but 
did not want to crush her eggs. They saw the bush 
and the spider's web, and shook their heads, convinced 
that no one had entered the cave lately. Several of 
them, after their long ride, loitered to answer a call 
of nature. 



" They have seen us," said Abu Bakr to his 

" No, had they believed us to be here, they would 
have conduced themselves more decently." 

Finally the pursuers departed. The two listeners 
heard their cries to each other and the footsteps of 
their horses as they turned homewards. 

" Glory to God ! " cried Mahomet. " God is 
indeed greatest ! " 

On the eve of the third day, Asma and 'Amir 
ben Fohai'ra, accompanied by 'Abdallah ben Arqat, 
a polytheist Bedouin guide, in whom, however, 
Abu Bakr had complete confidence, arrived at the cave 
with two camels and provisions for the voyage. Asma 
occupied herself with arranging the provisions. As 
she could find nothing with which to tie her father's 
bag and the gourd, she took off her belt, cutting it into 
two strips to use as cords ; hence, she has been called 
"the woman with the two belts." A whole sheep, 
roasted in the ashes, was wrapped in the round piece 
of leather that served for a table cloth. 

Mahomet and Abu Bakr mounted and set off, 
accompanied by the guide and 'Amir on foot. Wishing 
to avoid the chief route, they went diagonally in a 
northerly direction, along the borders of the Red Sea. 
They travelled all that night and part of the next 
morning without stopping. In order to encourage 
the camels, the guide sang to them in a monotonous 
chant tuned to the rhythm of their footsteps. 

When the heat became intense and the route was 
completely deserted, they stopped at the foot of a 
great rock casting a cool shadow on a small patch 
of ground never reached by the sun. Abu Bakr spread 
a fur upon which his friend, worn out by fatigue 
and thirst, might rest. A shepherd with several sheep 



came to repose in the shade. Abu Bakr asked him 
to milk one of his ewes, bidding him remove all hairs 
and dust from the udder. Then pouring some water 
from his leather bottle into the milk to cool it, he offered 
the bowl to the Prophet. 

" Is it not time to set forth again ? " asked 

" Yes, the sun is beginning to go down." 

The Qoraishites, however, had offered a reward 
of a hundred camels to anyone who would bring back 
Mahomet, dead or alive. All the neighbouring tribes 
were warned. Soraqa ben Malik, a Bedouin of the 
Madbah tribe, resolved to gain the reward. One of 
his tribesman pointed out some dark shapes going 
in the direction of the coast. 

" These must be So-and-so and So-and-so gone in 
search of straying camels," he said, wishing secretly 
to take advantage of the knowledge, and he remained 
several minutes in the group to divert their attention ; 
but going home, he sent a servant to post a horse 
behind a sand dune and slipped out of the rear end 
of his tent, armed from head to foot. 

Soon he almost caught up with the Prophet and his 
companions. He could hear the Prophet reciting 
from the Koran. The fugitives were unarmed. Abu 
Bakr, turning his head, realized that he would soon 
be at their side, and manifested his uneasiness to the 
Prophet. But a strange fear suddenly came over 
Soraqa ; his horse slipped, or stumbled against a 
stone. Mahomet, seeing his distress, addressed him 
in eloquent words, and the Bedouin, who was in an 
awkward position and also greatly impressed, begged 
the four men to spare him and to intercede with heaven 
in his favour. 

Then he turned homewards and covered up the 


flight of the Prophet by saying to those he met on the 
way : 

" I am taking charge of the pursuit on this side. 
You go the other way." 

Being a canny Bedouin, however, he had asked 
Mahomet to make a mark on his quiver in testimony 
of their meeting. Years later, after Islam had 
triumphed, he made good use of this. 

The fugitives continued their path towards Yathrib. 
They crossed the dunes, where the vegetation had 
begun to dry up under the summer sun, the hills, of a 
muddy yellow or a dull blue, were dotted with little 
trees, whose leaves were eaten in times of scarcity ; 
they then passed a volcanic region where the desert 
takes on a tragic aspect with its plains of black lava 
and its mountains of old craters spotted with blue 
basalt, rose porphyry and silvery soapstone. The 
farther north they went, the more scarce water became. 
Little springs surrounded by palm-trees, open wells 
of yellowish water along the trail or natural cisterns 
in the hollows of the rocks were all that could be found. 
The region was inhabited by nomads with a few 
permanent inhabitants living in miserable villages 
of mud houses covered with tiles of lava. 

After seven days of travel, they approached Yathrib. 
Already they had come upon the great kasbas of the 
tribes living in the suburbs and they could hear the 
doves cooing to each other in the towers. The fugitives 
were beyond all danger. The Banu Sahm tribe, 
headed by its Sheikh, Borai'da, came forth to meet 
the Prophet. Ez, Zubai'r, Asma's husband, was at 
the head of a caravan coming from Syria which had 
crossed them on their route. He had furnished them 
with new white garments. 

At last, on a Monday, the 1 2th Rabi', they reached 



Quba, two miles from Yathrib, where they were joined 
bv 'Ali, who arrived in a pitiful slate, having made the 
trip on foot, travelling by night and hiding by day. 
Ouba was a village on a fertile hillside, covered with 
gardens and vineyards, date, fig, orange and 
pomegranate trees. The Prophet stayed there four 
days and laid the foundations of what was perhaps the 
firlt mosque. On Friday, after having delivered a 
long sermon and his firs! public prayer, Mahomet 
made a triumphant entry into Yathrib, now Medina, 
as we have already related. 

Several days later, the faithful Zaid, 'Aisha and 
Asma, the two daughters of Abu Bakr, and the family 
of the Prophet, arrived. Thus all the Moslems of 
Mecca, excepting some slaves, some of lukewarm 
faith, and a few renegades " unfaithful to their own 
souls ", had left their native country. They were 
called the Emigrants, Mohajirun. The inhabitants 
of Medina were known as the Aids of the Prophet, 
the Ansar. All were his Companions, Sahaba. 

Such was the celebrated emigration, the Hegira, 
from which the Caliph 'Omar dated the Moslem era. 

J 53 



The Faith will find a refuge in 
Medina as the serpent finds a 
refuge in his hole. . . . Medina 
disposes of the wicked as the fire 
of the forge chases the impurities 
out of iron. . . . The Anti- 
christ will never enter there, for 
her seven gates are each guarded 
by two angels. 


established at Medina Mahomet began to 
work out the details of his religion (a thing few 
originators of religions have been able to do) and, at 
the same time, to found a society on a basis entirely 
new in Arabia and broader than the exclusive con- 
ceptions of tribe and clan before that time. He was 
at once an apostle, a legislator, a politician and a 
warrior. Most of the population gave him an 
enthusiastic welcome, but his authority was not firmly 
established until after his first great victories. 

The conciliation of all factions fell upon him. 
There were the Jews, numerous and influential, 
and those Arabs not yet converted to Islam. To the 
Jews, he made many advances ; when he prayed he 
faced the direction (qibla} of Jerusalem. He won over 
several rabbis, notably 'Abdallah ben Salam, although 
most of them cherished a lively opposition to his 

Now, by virtue of a solemn charter, there were 



united in the same nation all the Mussulman emigrants 
of Mecca, the converts of Medina, the pagan tribes 
of the Khazraj and the Aws, and several tribes of 
local Jews, their allies. All were pledged to mutual 
aid and to take part in the defence of the city. The 
Jews were allowed religious freedom and Mussulman 
protection. When the Mussulmans went to war the 
Jews were to contribute to the cost. No faction was 
allowed to declare war or to make alliances without the 
consent of the Prophet, who was the arbiter of all 

In order to more closely unite the Emigrants of 
Mecca and the Mussulmans of Medina or the Ansar^ 
and to avoid rivalries which might have proved 
dangerous, Mahomet established a system of personal 
relationship which was to supersede that of the family. 
Each Ansari) or Mussulman of Medina, took as a 
brother a Mohajir, or Emigrant of Mecca, the rule 
being that he should stand in the line of inheritance 
before the members of the natural family. Later, 
this rule was rescinded. The Ansar were very generous 
with the exiles who, for the most part, were obliged 
to leave their possessions behind at Mecca. Only 
'Othman, the rich Ommayad, a son-in-law of 
Mahomet's, was able to transport his wealth. As 
soon as he reached Medina he bought from a Jew 
for forty thousand dirhems the well of Rawna which he 
devoted for the common use of the Emigrants. But 
he still remained so rich that he paid the entire 
expenses of the expedition against Tabuk, almost 

The others were less fortunate. Hamza asked his 
nephew to provide him with the necessities of life. 
'Abderrahman ben c Awf arrived without a penny. 
The Ansari Said, who had adopted him as a brother, 



offered to share his possessions with him, even to his 
wives ; but c Abderrahman only asked the road to the 
market-place. His confidence in his commercial 
ability was not misplaced. After beginning humbly 
by selling butter and cheese, he soon became rich 
enough to pay the dowry for a wife from Medina 
and later he equipped a caravan of seven hundred 
camels. "Underneath each stone," he said, " I 
believe I can find a treasure." Of another of 
his disciples, Mahomet said laughingly that he 
could make a fortune selling sand. 

The emigrants of Mecca brought to Medina their 
customs, their business sense and their love of gain. 
They established a second suq^ or market-place, in 
the heart of the city so as to free themselves from the 
Jewish domination at the market of the Banu 

Others of the Emigrants became tillers of the soil. 
The people of Medina gave them land to cultivate, 
taking only a part of the harvest in return, C AH Sa c d 
ben Malik, Abdallah ben Mas c ud, the families 
of Abu Bakr, 'Omar, Ibn Sirin and others, made 
similar contracts. 

Even the well-established Mussulmans led very 
simple lives. Asma, Abu Bakr's daughter, and her 
husband, Ez Zubai'r, had but one camel and one 
horse. They cultivated some land that had been given 
them at a distance of two-thirds of a paras a ng from their 
house. 1 Asma herself looked after the horse, drew 
water with the aid of the camel, mended the leather 
water bottles, carried the garden produce on her head, 
and kneaded the bread ; but as she was not skilful 
enough to make the bread her neighbours in Medina 
helped her. One day when she was carrying a heavy 
1 A Persian linear measure. 



load on her head she met Mahomet and some of his 
disciples. He slopped his camel and invited her to 
ride behind him. With an embarassed air, the young 
wife refused, for " her husband was the most jealous 
of men ". But her husband told her that he would 
have preferred having her ride with his brother-in-law 
the Prophet than carry a heavy load. At last Abu 
Bakr gave his daughter a slave to do the heavy work. 
" It seems to me that I have just been freed," she said. 

Abu Bakr and his family occupied a small house 
in the suburb of Es-Sunh, but his eldest son, the bitter 
pagan 'Abderrahman, had remained at Mecca. His 
other son, c Abdallah, had married the beautiful 
Atika, daughter of the famous bandit, Zaid ben 
'Amr. She likewise emigrated. Her husband loved 
her with such passion that he neglected to take part 
in the holy wars, and Abu Bakr forced them to separate 
for a time. 

'Omar likewise inhabited the suburbs. He rose 
rapidly in Mahomet's esteem and Mahomet did 
nothing without consulting both 'Omar and Abu 
Bakr, who were on intimate terms with him ; he 
received them partly dressed whereas he was far more 
formal with his Ommayad son-in-law, 'Othman who, 
after his marriage with Roqai'a, had married the 
Prophet's other daughter, Omm Kulthum. But 
the new master of Medina had to exercise diplomacy 
in his dealings with these two powerful disciples. 
Even in the matter of the selection of his harem, he 
consulted these two men of strong character, both of 
whom felt they were born to command, although 
of plebian origin. 

'Omar, brought up strictly by his father, had had a 
hard life at the beginning, like the Prophet. He was 
full of energy and given to violence. Tall, stern, 



with a dark complexion which came from a mulatto 
mother, he was always seen in public (and at home, they 
say, in order to terrify his wives) with a bull's-pizzle 
whip in his hand. One day he used his whip on some 
people who had come to ask a favour of Mahomet. 
It was he who caused the wives of Mahomet to be 
veiled and sequestered ; and even after he became 
caliph two women refused to marry him saying he was 
too severe, that he kept his wives locked up, and that 
he always fed his family upon coarse food barley 
bread and camel's meat cooked in salty water. All 
the anecdotes about him indicate that he was a brutal 
man. " Cut his head off straightway ! " was often the 
advice he gave, whereas Abu Bakr, who could upon 
occasion be resolute and forceful, was more tempered 
in his advice. Power and maturity had greatly 
broadened his spirit. 

Mahomet was amused by c Omar's jealousy. One 
day he told him that in a dream he had gone 
to paradise, where he stood in front of a castle. He 
asked the name of the owner. 

" 'Omar ben el Khattab," was the answer. 

" In that case," said the Prophet, remembering 
c Omar's jealousy, " I turned my back." 

At these words 'Omar melted into tears. "Is it 
of you, O Messenger of God, that I need have 
jealous fears ? " 

And Mahomet had to console him. 

Mahomet advised the Mohajirunn to work for their 
livings rather than accept the charity of the Ansar. 
And some of them worked so hard that they became 
evil-smelling from toil, which offended the delicate 
nostrils of 'Ai'sha. But some Arabs who had come 
from afar, poor uncultivated devils, did not seem to 
be able to look out for themselves and were obliged 



to live on charity. The Prophet found a place for 
them to sleep on a bench in a part of the mosque 
that was covered by a roof but had no walls ; hence 
the name of ahl es suffa^ the " people of the bench ". 
He gave them, when he could, the remains from his 
own table. Sometimes in the evening they were fed 
with a mess of roasted barley bought with the 
community's money. In their tatters they added a 
picturesque note to the Prophet's court. Of all of 
them the most curious was Abu Horai'ra, known as 
the " old man with the little cat ", probably because 
he nearly always carried a cat around with him. 
This sympathetic vagabond came from the tribe of 
Dawsites. " I would never have thought that such 
a decent fellow was to be found amongst the Dawsites," 
said Mahomet, upon learning of his origin. 

Abu Horai'ra is known for the great number of 
suspicious hadiths which he collected. He followed 
the Prophet everywhere, even to his intimate retreats, 
recording his least word and humblest action. This 
genial parasite, it seems, preferred the holy company 
of his master and the teachings that came from his 
lips to any sort of work. When he suffered from 
hunger, he would lay a stone on his belly and ask 
someone to recite the Koran to him simply a way 
of asking to be invited to a meal. One day when he 
was literally famished, he met 'Omar. 

" Take me to your house so that I can hear you 
read the Koran," he said. 

'Omar invited him to come, read several verses but 
gave him nothing. The poor man complained to 
the Prophet, who gave him milk to drink, and he 
drank until his stomach was as tight as a drum. 

But Ja'far ben Abi Talib, Mahomet's cousin, was 
more generous to the " old man with the little cat ", 


as well as to other famished " people of the bench ". He 
would take them to his house and give them every- 
thing he had. When there remained nothing but a 
water jug he would burst it open so that they could 
lick the inside. Some hungry Bedouins received 
amongst " the people of the bench " were allowed by 
the Prophet to drink the milk and the urine (sic) of 
the camels of the tithe. But they killed the driver 
and made off with the animals. When they were 
caught Mahomet punished them by having their 
hands and feet cut off, their eyes poked out and 
abandoning them in the desert where they died, 
gnawing the stones. 

Life was not always easy in Medina, as can be seen. 
Mahomet, after having occupied the first floor of 
Abu Ayyub's house, established himself near the 
mosque. He had bought the ground where his 
camel first knelt, seen to the removal of some palm- 
trees and tombs and, with his own hands, began the 
construction of the House of Prayer. To be sure, 
it was nothing but a large square, bounded on the 
one side by the brick houses with stone doorways of 
the Prophet and his wives, and on the other by the 
covered gallery of the " people of the bench ", 
supported by the trunks of palm-trees. The only 
lighting at night was that given by little heaps of 
straws illuminated for the evening prayer. Nine 
years later lamps were attached to the tree trunks. 

The Prophet preached with his back against a 
tree-trunk. Later he had made a pulpit of tamarisk 
wood (minbar) a sort of stool with three steps. He 
stood on one of the steps of this platform, at once 
chair, pulpit and throne, holding in his hand a small 
javelin or wand inlaid with gold and ivory with which 
he would emphasise certain parts of his discourse. 

1 60 


The negro, Bilal, who had been bought out of slavery 
by Abu Bakr became the muezzin and master of 
ceremonies of the Prophet. He stood at the foot of 
the platform holding in his hand the ceremonial 
sword with its hilt of silver. It was not until the end 
of his life, after his great victories when he was the 
powerful head of a slate, that Mahomet adopted the 
following ceremony to impress the Arabs. He then 
had several pulpits made and on Fridays he would 
have the mosque perfumed by burning precious 
essences. A great, red tent of leather, large enough 
to accommodate forty persons, was sometimes set up 
in the square for the reception of deputations. 

Mahomet's house bordered the mosque. He had 
an apartment for each of his wives, with the doors 
giving on to the courtyard of prayer. The first houses 
were those of Sawda and 'A'isha. There were as many 
as nine at a time. Sawda had been married in Mecca 
shortly before the Hegira. Aisha was married to 
the Prophet eight months after his arrival in Medina. 
She was then nine years of age. 

One day when she was amusing herself in the 
swings with her little friends, her mother, Abu Bakr's 
wife, called to her. Without understanding at all 
what it was about, she ran to her mother, out of 
breath. Her mother took her hand, made her rest 
on the doorstep until she was calm, wiped the perspira- 
tion from her brow and sprinkled her head and face 
with water. In the house, a gathering of women 
greeted the child with : " To your happiness ; 
blessings and the best of fortune ! " Then they 
dressed her. Mahomet arrived. They gave him the 
tiny, blushing bride. 

'Aisha was Mahomet's favourite wife, and he was 
very indulgent with her childishness. She was 

161 M 


intelligent, gracious, but coquettish and capricious ; 
she soon had a great deal of influence over Mahomet. 
Her influence in the first half-century of the history 
of Islam was not always for good. But at that time 
she was only a lively and happy little girl, in whom 
the woman was already born. She played with 
innumerable dolls ; and although her husband had 
certain puritanical prejudices, he seems to have 
tolerated the pretty, foreign hangings with figures of 
winged horses and black eagles and fantastic animals 
which decorated her walls. When these profane 
images stood between him and the qibla of his prayer, 
he had them removed so as not to distract his mind. 
Sometimes he asked her to have the large hangings 
cut up and made into cushions, for as such they were 
less shocking. " At the last judgment," he is reported 
to have said, " God will call up these artists to breathe 
life into these creatures they have created, which 
would greatly perplex them." 

The victories, the raiding expeditions, and the 
caravans created a certain luxury, altogether relative, 
to be sure. (A bodice, costing five dirhems about 
three French francs was the pride of 'Ai'sha.) There 
were stuffs and carpets, products of civilization, 
which gave naive delight to the sensuous Arabs, who 
loved magnificence even in the midst of their poverty ; 
but nothing in the world could prevent the desert 
Hijaz region from long periods of want. The usual 
rations of Mahomet and his family were more than 
frugal. The principal meal was composed chiefly of 
a boiled gruel known as sawiq flour or roasted 
barley with dates and water or milk, while the second 
meal was only dates. There were no strainers for 
separating the chaff from the wheat. When the 
barley was being ground, they blew away part of the bran 



with their breath, of which they made a porridge 
called khazira or else they mixed it with milk and 
honey to make telb'tna^ with which to cover the therid, 
or crumbled bread in a soup of meat and vegetables. 
White bread was almost unknown. Often they lived 
on water, milk and dates. They sat on the floor on 
mats and usually there was no napkin on which to 
wipe their fingers other than their biceps or feet. 
Several times Mahomet actually suffered from hunger, 
and one time had to pawn his coat of mail, not having 
even a measure of barley in the house. 

They made up for the days of scarcity, however, 
after the harvest, after a razzia, and when the caravans 
arrived. An Arab's stomach is capable of supporting 
the most copious repasts from time to time as well 
as enduring periods of extreme leanness. Mahomet was 
often invited to feasts ; he was particularly fond of 
shoulder of mutton, of gourds floating in a deep sauce, 
of honey and of sweet dishes. He refused to eat roasted 
lizards as did the Bedouins of Nejd. He believed in 
frugality, and that the stomach need only be half- 
filled ; he forbade eating while lying on the side. 
This practice meant too long a sojourn at table. 

At the beginning of his career the Prophet's 
wardrobe was no richer than his table. One day a 
woman gave him a cloak, which he needed badly, 
but when some one asked him for the cloak to make 
a shroud, Mahomet gave it up for " he could refuse 
nothing ". His usual garb was a qamis^ a tunic with 
sleeves worn next to the skin and a rida or kisa, a 
large piece of unsewn goods worn draped about the 
shoulders. These materials were of rough wool or 
cotton or of linen. On special occasions he wore 
garments that were more ornate, embroidered or 
Griped materials that came from Yemen and even, 



towards the end, silken tunics from Damascus and 
Smyrna, a huge cloak trimmed with gold brought bv 
Khalid ben el Walid, garments with conventional 
designs given by the monks and Christians of Nejran 
or bought in Syria or Egypt. He owned, they say, 
a garment which was worth the price of three hundred 
camels and that he wore but a single time. In general, 
however, he forbade the wearing of silks and materials 
too gay with stripes. A certain amount of parade may go 
very well with even the most austere of daily existences. 

Upon his feet he wore, ordinarily, leather sandals 
but often went barefoot. The Negus of Abyssinia 
sent him some trousers and black boots. Several 
times he wore the boots while praying but he never 
put on the trousers. On his head he wore a turban ; 
he needed a mirror to wind it about his head ; a 
pail of clear water served the purpose. 

Mahomet loved above all else, he said, " perfumes, 
women and prayer ". He anointed his head with 
essences which dripped upon his clothing to such an 
extent that " one would have taken him for an oil- 
merchant ". His hair and beard were smeared with 
cosmetics and the stuff that lined his turban was 
greasy with it. At night people could tell where 
Mahomet had passed for he left a trail of perfume in 
his wake. He permitted the wearing of false teeth 
(one of the disciples had a nose made of gold, upon 
Mahomet's recommendation) but wigs were strictly 
forbidden. Mahomet dyed his nails with henna and 
put kohl on his eyelashes. Before going to bed he 
cleaned his teeth with a particular kind of wood. 
He slept upon a carpet or a mattress of leather stuffed 
with fibres of the palm-tree, which he shook very 
thoroughly in order to drive out the vermin, for 
Mahomet was meticulously clean. 



His chief extravagance was his stable. The horse 
was then a rare animal in Arabia. His white mule 
called " Doldol ", a present from the governor of 
Egypt, was the first imported into Arabia. He later 
owned another, a grey one, " Shahba ", a present 
from the Negus. These two rulers also sent him 
two splendid asses, " Ya'fur " and " 'Ofai'r ". The 
Prophet likewise had three racing camels : " Qoswa ", 
bought from Abu Bakr the day of the Hegira, 
" Jad'a " of the split ears and " Adhba ". He had 
twenty milch-camels, six of which were led to pasture 
daily and ten of which remained before the doors of 
Mahomet's wives who had them milked by 
their servants. His possessions included several 
dromedaries, herded by the negro Yasar, and seven 
goats under the care of Omm Ai'man. 

Mahomet realized the necessity of having a force 
of cavalry. After the battle of Ohod, he established 
breeding stables. Sometimes there were horse-races. 
Mahomet liked racing on his camel, 'Adhba, almost 
invincible. Once, however, an Arab, mounted on a 
young camel, beat him in a race. Although this was 
a terrible blow to the vanity of the Mussulmans, 
Mahomet said : 

" God is right to allow nothing on earth to always 
surpass everything else." 

While perhaps a little too sensual, Mahomet was 
neither vain, covetous nor corrupted by ambition and 
fanaticism. He was mostly gentle, sensitive, and 
humane, even irresolute at the moments when he 
felt himself uninspired ; he was affable with everyone 
and very simple in his habits. He used to sweep his 
bed-chamber, mend his clothes and his sandals, milk 
the ewes, lie on his back on the floor of the mosque, 


get up to let in a cat, look after a sick cockerel, wipe 
the sweat from his horse with his sleeve, give alms 
to the poor when he had anything to give, avoid as 
much as possible anything that gave him the air of 
being a king. He had neither court nor ministers, only 
advisers and several secretaries, and a seal on a silver 
ring bearing these words : " Mahomet, the Messenger 
of God ". 

Now Mahomet began to devote the greater part 
of his time to expeditions. But at Medina he spent 
his days in prayer (the prescribed as well as spontaneous 
prayers), in sermons, in work, in the intimacy of his 
harem ; he was by no means opposed to recreation 
or amusements. Once he proposed to take 'Ai'sha to 
see some negro performers who gave an exhibition 
of a combat with the lance and the shield. The 
young woman was delighted. She sat beside 
Mahomet, her cheek touching his and watched with 
pleasure the great slim bodies as they went through 
the movements of the combat. 'Omar wanted to 
expel these acrobats, but Mahomet said : " No, each 
people has its holiday. This is ours." And he 
himself gave the order for the start. 

Another time, in spite of Abu Bakr, who thought 
these airs savoured of the devil, Mahomet allowed 
two Medina women to sing to 'A'isha, in his presence, 
of the ancient civil wars of that town. 

Loving children as he did, it must have been a 
cause of great regret that he had no son. He allowed 
his grandchildren to climb about his shoulders during 
prayers and to play about in the pulpit while he was 
being consulted by the faithful. One day a little girl, 
dressed in a yellow tunic which was so pretty that 
Mahomet congratulated her on it, began to play with 



the hairy growth on his back the " Seal of 
Prophecy". Her mother scolded her, but Mahomet 
said : " No, no, let her play." And he encouraged 
the child. 

Seeing a captive mother with her breasts filled 
with milk gather little children to her bosom, 
Mahomet pointed to her as an example, saying : 
" Assuredly, God is even more kind to his creatures 
than that mother to her child." 

Anas, his servant during ten years, praised his 
patience and said that he never spoke crossly. He 
was gentle with everyone, even in his rebukes ; he 
never used coarse language and while he was easy 
of access, he protected his solitude against intrusion. 
The Koran forbade people to enter the presence of 
the Prophet without being announced, to detain the 
Prophet unnecessarily, to call to him loudly when he 
was at home instead of waiting until he came forth 
from his house, or to raise their voices above that of 
the Prophet. 

After the first enthusiasm of his arrival had died 
down, Mahomet encountered some difficulty at 
Medina. His arrival interfered with certain local 
interests and certain personal ambitions. 'Abdallah ben 
Obayy, the Khazraj chief, had aspired to the supreme 
power of the city and he could never forgive the 
Prophet for having usurped it. The discontented 
ones grouped themselves about him. One day when 
Mahomet rode forth on his ass, accompanied by several 
of the disciples, he encountered a gathering of Jews 
and pagans, amongst whom was 'Abdallah ben Obayy. 

" Get off with you," said he, as he draped himself 
in his cloak. " Your donkey stinks- and you are 
covering us with dust." 


" The donkey of the Messenger of God smells 
better than you ! " cried a Mussulman. 

Words ! Blows ! Branches of the palm-tree, 
fists and feet were used. Mahomet dismounted and 
quelled the quarrel with difficulty. He tried to calm 
them by reciting from the Koran. 

" All that would be very pretty if it were 
true," said 'Abdallah. " But you would do better 
to recite all that at home instead of bothering us 
with it." 

The Prophet remounted and continued on his way 
to the house of Sa'd ben 'Obada. 

" Ibn Obayy is jealous of you," said Sa'd ben 
'Ob&da. He had hoped to become king of our city. 
Forgive him." 

After the brilliant victory of Badr many idolaters 
of Medina were converted to Islam, more or less 
sincerely, and amongst them Ibn Obayy. But he was 
not sincere. He never ceased being the head of the 
opposition and secretly caused Mahomet many 
difficulties. While Mahomet managed the insincere 
converts with diplomacy, he likewise dubbed them 
the munafiquH) the " hypocrites ". 

In spite of his prestige, Mahomet often had difficulty 
in maintaining his authority over such a turbulent 
race. Undoubtedly few leaders have been obeyed 
with as much enthusiasm as was Mahomet. But the 
Arab is essentially anarchistic. He is not used to 
any sort of discipline. Mahomet performed a real 
miracle in eventually grouping them under the 
standard of Islam. Without speaking of the 
"hypocrites", the Auxiliaries of Medina did not 
always get on with the Emigrants of Mecca and they 
felt themselves quite different from the Bedouins, 
the most difficult of all to handle proud, impulsive 



and quick to take offence. The judgments rendered 
by Mahomet and the division of the spoils were the 
source of continual quarrels. Mahomet called upon 
the supernatural as much as upon his innate diplomacy 
to arrange matters. Was not his personal dis- 
interestedness an example to follow ? 

One day he was quite overcome to see almost all 
his audience vanish before his very eyes. The drum 
announcing the arrival of a caravan had just been 
heard, and everyone hastened to the scene either for 
business, or out of curiosity. 


Mahomet tried to win over the nomads. Every- 
thing was done to make those who came to Medina 
remain, and the complete oath of fidelity required that 
they stay in the city. To return to the desert was 
considered almost as an act of apostasy. Like 
Mahomet, the early caliphs fought against the call 
of a wandering life. (Once, on account of this 
nostalgia, a Bedouin committed suicide in Medina.) 
Mahomet feared for the future of the nation if the 
Arabs did not give up the nomadic life which Islam 
has sometimes been accused unjustly of encouraging. 
He praised the benefits of a sojourn in the holy city 
which was in reality so unhealthy that a short stay 
sufficed to make the belly swell, and the rest of the 
body grow lean, and where the Emigrants had suffered 
dreadfully from a pernicious fever. He put up with 
the improprieties of the Bedouins. Once when a 
Bedouin was making water in the very mosque, 
Mahomet protected him from the others who 
wanted to make him pay for this outrage. " Let him 
make a pail-full, if he likes," said he. 

On another occasion a Bedouin pulled at Mahomet's 
cloak with such force that his skin was badly scratched. 
" O Mahomet, give me some of Allah's riches that 



you hold in your power," he cried. Mahomet turned 
to him laughingly and gave him a present. 

But Mahomet could be very severe with those who 
lacked faith. The Koran condemns the lack of faith 
of the nomads and their frequent treacheries. He 
reproached their placing a halo of false glory about 
the heads of " bragging nomads who live in tents 
of camels' skins " and who bestow upon themselves 
imaginary ancestors. He had much difficulty in 
instilling in them an understanding of spirituality and 
concentration in God. If an Arab came to Medina 
and his wife bore him a son and his mare had young, 
the Arab would say : " This indeed is an excellent 
religion ; " but if his wife and his mare remained 
sterile, he would proclaim : " What a bad religion ! " 

The nomads are of a practical nature. They like 
most of all to pillage but not to kill and be killed. 
They like to be praised for their generosity and 
courage ; generally they are no more conscious 
of the " monotheistic " poetry of the desert than the 
average peasant is alive to the beauty of nature. 
The Prophet's teaching had a far better grip upon the 
dwellers of the cities who were less barbarous and who 
were prepared for the coming of Islam by their 
association with the Jewish cultivators and the 
Christian merchants. 




Thou shalt in no wise reckon those 
who have been slain . . . in the 
cause of God, dead ; nay, they 
are sustained alive with their 
Lord, rejoicing for what God in 
his favour hath granted them. 
Koran, iii, 163. 

Te seek the accidental goods of 
this world, but God regardeth the 
life to come. 

Koran, viii, 68. 

A martyr is a man who gives his 
life for something other than 


pARADISE lies in the shadow of the sword. 
- " Death is the last enemy to be vanquished," 
said St. Paul. Joseph de Maistre heard the terrible 
cry of the earth for blood, the sobbing of a world 
athirst for salvation, " an immense altar upon which 
all that lives must be sacrificed without cease until 
the end of all things, until the death of Death." 
Religions thrive on the blood of martyrs. 

From the time of the second oath of 'Aqaba, the 
theory of the holy war, the jihdd^ developed in the 
mind of Mahomet and in the Koran. Mahomet was 
not a pacifist ; he believed that there were certain 
principles for which one should fight and, if necessary, 
die. There is no inconsistency between the turning 



of the other cheek for a personal injury and the rescue 
of a child that is being murdered. 

During ten years the Mussulmans had suffered 
all manner of persecution without putting up any 
defence. During that period the Koran commanded 
them to endure with patience. Now they were exiled 
from their native land a price had been set upon their 
leader, a new state had been formed by them. Since 
the Hegira a virtual slate of war existed between the 
town of the idolaters and the Prophet's city. It was 
now a question of life or death for Islam and war was 
the only way of settling it. Should the Qoraishites 
attack Medina and be victorious it would mean the 
end of Islam. It became necessary for the Mussul- 
mans to " kill and be killed ", to fight those who had 
unjustly chased them from their firesides simply for 
having said : " Allah is our God ". Liberty of 
conscience could only be maintained by a war. To 
die in the " path of the Lord " was considered martyr- 
dom. The Qoraishites, the tribes of Arabia and the 
Jews of Medina, were allied against Islam, whose 
chances of success were slight. 

Now the Koran often becomes a war-song exhorting 
the faithful to courage, the reading of a general's 
orders to his army. It roused the lukewarm, shamed 
the hesitating, denounced the " hypocrite " defeatists 
and promised to the martyrs the cool shades of Eden. 
One night under arms was the equivalent of two 
months of fasting and praying. 

" Verily God hath -purchased of the true believers their 
souls and their subslance, promising them the enjoyment of 
paradise ..." 

There even appeared an excellent example, for at 
that very moment the Greeks of Heraclius defeated 
the Persians, thus saving the churches of Syria 



and, in consequence, the Mussulmans of the Hijaz 
(xxii, 40, 41). 

Often the attitude of the first Mussulmans is 
contrasted with that of the firsl Christians. 
Undoubtedly, the picture of the first Christian 
martyr, St. Stephen, praying for his executioners 
arouses more admiration than that of the first Moslem 
martyr, Khobaib, cursing his enemies with : " O 
Lord, count them all and make them perish one by 
one ! " But they both died for their faith, equally 
convinced that they had earned the martyr's palm. 
The circumstances were different, but the principle 
the same. In an ultra-civilized country as well- 
policed as the Roman Empire was, where the early 
Christians were unarmed and to whom Jesus gave the 
injunction to render unto Caesar the things that are 
Cassar's. . there was no alternative but to allow 
existing justice to take its course, as Socrates had done. 
In anarchistic Arabia where a state of perpetual warfare 
existed between clan and tribe, where no one ever went 
forth unless provided with sword or javelin, the 
Mussulmans were led to war by force of circumstance 
and war was considered a means of legitimate defence 
by them. 1 

" Before our days," said Mahomet to his flock, 
" there were men over whose heads a saw was placed 
and this saw descended cutting them in two. Combs 
of iron were thrust into them until all the flesh 
had been torn from the bones. But these men did 

1 In his Primaute du Spirituel p. 300, M. J. Maritain says : The 
early Christians did not seek to overthrow the existing empire which 
persecuted them because they were altogether powerless to establish 
a Christian state. Hence they were practically forced to turn their 
attention to things spiritual. . . . Likewise their revolt . . . would 
have imperilled the existence of the city. There remained for them 
martyrdom, which was not the worst of solutions. 



not deny their faith. In the name of God, Islam 
must rise to such a point that a horseman can go from 
San'a to Hadramawt without any fear in him, except 
that of God for himself and the wolf for his herd. You 
must hasten to accomplish this." 

The theory of the holy war was not to convert people 
with the menace of the sword. " No force in religion. 
'The true road is sufficiently different from the false" 
the Koran says explicitly. The Koran lays down the 
rule of attacking last and always being moderate. The 
successive revelations, fragmentary and disordered, 
relate to contemporary events, to the line of conduct 
to be pursued by Mahomet and his disciples, as the 
situations present themselves. It would be improper 
to draw general conclusions from these injunctions, 
which were a mixture. Besides, material purposes 
perverted sometimes the religious ones. The jihad, 
from having been a means, became an end, and the 
spiritual was sacrificed to the temporal often in 
scandalous fashion. 

From the days of the Prophet some Mussulmans 
saw in the holy war only the possibilities of fruitful 
razzias. When they encountered people in the course 
of an expedition, they often killed them outright with- 
out asking who they were and then claimed that they 
were infidels in order to exonerate themselves. The 
Koran vigorously condemns such practices. Although 
Mahomet gave blow for blow and treachery for 
treachery, and in the heat of battle fell into an excess 
of ardour, he was rarely cruel in cold blood and more 
often showed proof of a remarkable moderation. His 
generosity in the days of his final triumph exhibited a 
greatness of soul rare indeed in the pages of history. 
He commanded his soldiers to spare the feeble, the 
old, women and children ; he forbade their destroying 



houses, making off with harvests or cutting down 
fruit trees . . . He prescribed the use of the sword 
only in cases of necessity. We see him publicly 
condemning some of his captains and giving recom- 
pense for the damage done by them. " The gaming 
of a single soul," he declared, " is worth more than 
the richest conquest." 

The seizing of booty was the natural outcome of 
all combats and, with commerce and herding, formed, 
we might well say, the national industry of the Arabs. 
Mahomet tolerated it in his people " because of their 
weakness " ; but the dividing of the spoils was 
strictly regulated ; the greater part went to charity 
and the upkeep of the army. He forbade the separating 
of captive children from their mothers. He could 
not radically change the character of his people, but 
he did modify it in many points. He himself was only 
an illiterate man, almost without culture, altogether 
typical of his race and his epoch, but he knew that 
" God's mercy was beyond measure ". It would seem 
from all accounts that he had to battle mightily with 
himself to overcome a natural tendency towards 
vindictiveness. " He who learns to forgive," said 
he, " comes very near to being a prophet." Perhaps 
he suffered when he realized that he himself did not 
always attain to a state of perfection. 

Following the great Mussulman conquests, many 
of his people became enormously wealthy. The 
disciples amassed considerable fortunes by pillaging 
the treasures of Chosroes and the churches of Egypt. 
Humble Bedouins decked their arms with jewels 
that had belonged to the Sassanide emperors. Ez 
Zubai'r amassed a fortune equal to fifty million 
French francs. " What I fear most for you, my 
friend," Mahomet said one day, thinking of the 



time to come, " is the abundance of your possessions 
in this world." 

Even when Mus'ab ben 'Omai'r was killed at Ohod 
he did not own even a piece of stuff large enough to 
be used as a shroud. It only covered the upper part 
of his body and they put grass over his feet. One day 
c Abderrahman ben c Awf, when thinking of this martyr 
who had given his all for the cause of God, leaving his 
possessions behind in Mecca, said : " He was more 
worthy than we. The good things of this world have 
come to us in great quantities. Are we perhaps 
receiving our rewards in this world ? " And the old 
warrior began to weep . . . 

In the course of ten years Mahomet sent forth 
forty expeditions. This man who, when he is not 
represented as an adroit impostor, is often described 
as an epileptic visionary, personally took part in thirty 
campaigns and directed ten battles, not to mention the 
difficult negotiations he had to undertake. We know 
what qualities are required to support an expedition 
in Arabia the physical endurance, the perseverance, 
the untiring diplomacy that must form part of the 
nature of every Arabian chief, whose power is always 
unstable, depends upon his ability to dominate 
personally. In this difficult and exhausting art 
Mahomet excelled. 

From the moment of his arrival in Medina, 
Mahomet began to prepare for war. Circumstances 
soon placed an army at his command. At the 
instigation of Abu Sofyan the goods and the houses 
of the Emigrants were confiscated in Mecca and they 
naturally cried aloud for revenge. The Ansar of 
Medina had sworn to follow the Prophet in all combats. 
The city could scarcely feed the new arrivals. A few 
months after his coming Mahomet sent out several 



expeditions. He sent his uncle, Hamza, with a company 
of thirty Emigrants in the direction of the sea, and 
'Obai'da ben El Harith, with a company of sixty, in 
another direction, to spy out the caravans of Mecca. 
Hamza met a party of Qoraishite horsemen, greater in 
number than his own followers; but he prepared to charge 
on them, when the sheikh of the district intervened 
forbidding them to come to blows. 'Obaida likewise 
encountered a superior force whom he attacked with 
such energy that they believed him supported by 
another body of men and, fearing a trap, took to flight. 
There was no battle. Only one arrow was drawn the 
first of the holy war by Sa'd ben Abi Waqqas, and 
it struck an idolater. 

Two men of the Qorashites, who had secretly 
been converted to Islam, took advantage of the situa- 
tion to desert to 'Obaida's party. 

Shortly afterwards Mahomet himself set forth 
with two hundred men, whom he posted at Bowat ; 
here they lay in wait an entire month for a caravan 
that escaped them. He went forth again in September 
to Oshaira. The great winter caravan between Mecca 
and Syria was to cross here. The stakes were 
considerable, this caravan being one of the most 
valuable that had been sent out for a long time, 
although it only comprised a thousand camels and an 
escort of fifty men. The amount involved was fifty 
thousand gold dinars, or a million French francs. 
Every one in the city, from the rich bankers to the 
most humble of the Meccans, had subscribed to this 
enterprise. The clan of the Ommayads had forty 
thousand dinars tied up in this venture, thirty thousand 
of which were for the firm of Abu Ohai'ha alone. This 
firm pledged its credit and joined its reserve funds to 
that of its clients, to whom it promised a profit of 

177 N 


fifty per cent, in recognition of which the Ommayad 
Abu Sofyan received charge of the economic arrange- 
ments of the expedition, as well as the supreme 
command, above that of the technical guide (dale] 
who selected the trail and arranged the halts and that 
of the khafir who looked after the safety of the caravan 
by buying the protection of the tribes through 
whose territory they had to pass, as well as the right 
to pasture beasts and to draw water from the wells. 

But the Prophet had no better luck than before. 
His prey once more escaped, and he left at the end of 
the march having accomplished nothing better than 
an alliance with the tribe that inhabited the region. 

But the Qoraishites did not remain idle. A small 
group of bold horsemen came to the very gates of 
Medina where they did some slight damage. 
Mahomet hastily sallied forth from the city and 
pursued them in vain as far as the territory of Badr. 

In autumn Mahomet sent 'Abdallah ben Jahsh 
at the head of eight Mohajirun to reconnoitre in the 
region beyond Mecca in the direction of Tai'f. This 
was a dangerous mission. Instructions were enclosed 
in a sealed packet which the chief was only to read en 
route. When he had done so he gathered his men 
together and acquainted them with the nature of his 
mission giving them the choice of following him or of 
returning. They elected to remain with him. They 
then went to Nakhla, between Mecca and Tai'f, 
after having carefully inspected the outskirts of the 
enemy's city. They placed themselves in an ambush 
in a wood above the valley through which the 
trail passed. 

It was then the beginning of the month of Rajab, 
one of the holy months during which all hostilities 
must cease. The people of Tai'f had just harvested 



their fruit and were drying the grapes exported 
from their fertile mountain sides. The nine Mussul- 
mans watched the road, uncertain what course to 
follow. Then one day a small caravan of Qoraishites, 
headed by Ibn el Hadrami, came by. It was loaded 
with Taif raisins which they were taking to Mecca. 

The idolaters ! . . . What ought they to do ? 
The ancestral instinct for the raid (razzia} blazed 
forth. Hatred for these infidels who had chased them, 
the true believers, from their homes, surged up. 

'Abdallah and his men could not resist temptation. 
They rushed down the sides of the hill, jumping from 
rock to rock ; they threw themselves upon the 
merchants, killing one and making prisoners of two 
others. The others fled, leaving their beasts and their 
goods to the Mussulmans, who divided the spoils 
amongst them, reserving a fifth part for the Prophet. 
Then they took the road to Medina, where they arrived 
without further incident. 

A huge public scandal followed. The holy truce 
had been violated ! The whole of Tihama was 
indignant. Even in Medina the sacrilege was 
condemned. Mahomet reprimanded them and 
declined to accept his share of the booty. 'Abdallah 
and his men were so distressed and humiliated that they 
felt ill. Then the Prophet had a revelation : 

" // is true that to make war during the months of 
truce is a crime. But to disown God, to worship idols, 
to forbid the servant of God to enter into the House of 
Prayer (the Ka'ba), to drive him from his native land 
him and his family is an even greater crime" 

In the month of December, they heard that the 
famous caravan of Abu Sofyan was returning from 
Syria laden with precious merchandise. It was the 
same caravan that they had lain in wait for at Oshai'ra 



in the month of September. Mahomet hastily 
collected all his forces : seventy Mohajirun and two 
hundred and forty Ansar. They went in the direction 
of Badr, a valley where the road to Medina joined that 
of the caravan trail from Mecca to Syria. To the 
north and east were steep mountains, to the south 
were stony hills, and to the west dunes of shifting 
sand. There were deep wells ; a stream flowing 
through the valley watered some cultivated land and 
a grove of date trees. There was an annual market 
at Badr when the tribes of the Hijaz gathered together 
to exchange merchandise. 

The Mussulmans had only seventy camels and two 
horses. The horses were led on tethers and had riders 
only at the instant of charging the enemy. The men 
took turns on the camels carrying the coats of 
mail worn only in actual combat. 'AH carried 
the black flag of the Mohajirun^ called " the Eagle ". 
The Ansar also carried their banner, likewise black. 
On the road they met a Bedouin of whom they asked 
whether he had seen the Qoraishites. 

" No," he answered. 

" Pay your respects to the Prophet," ordered one 
of the Mussulmen. 

" What ! Have you a Prophet with you ? " 

" Yes." 

" Well, I would like to ask him what is within 
my camel's belly." 

Mahomet did not answer. But Selma ben Maslama, 
who more than liked a joke, replied : 

" Do not ask the Prophet that. I can tell you. 
You jumped upon your camel and now she is pregnant 
by you ! " 

But Mahomet reproved him, saying, " Do not 
utter coarse words." 

1 80 


Half-way to Badr, the Mussulmans heard that the 
Qoraishites had learned of their danger and were 
sending a large army for the protection of the returning 
caravan. The Prophet held a council. Some wanted 
to march against the Qoraishites and others against 
the caravan. Mahomet thought better of the first idea 
and, accordingly, they continued to Badr and, since 
they arrived before the enemy, were able to select 
an advantageous position and rest before the battle. 

The Qoraishites had indeed been informed of their 
danger. Abu Sofyan sent a messenger to Mecca, 
which cost him twenty dinars. It is said that three 
days before the arrival of the messenger, one of 
Mahomet's aunts, 'Atika bint 'Abdelmottalib, married 
in Mecca, saw in a dream this bearer of evil tidings, 
this nadhir, first hurrying on his camel, then mounting 
the roof of the Ka'ba and summoning the men to arms. 
The story of this dream spread quickly. 

Abu Jahl said to 'Abbas, 'Atika's brother : "Is 
it not enough that your family has produced a 
Prophet ? Now you have got a Prophetess too ! 
If nothing happens within three days we shall all be 
obliged to believe that you, the Banu Hashim, are 
the greatest liars amongst all the Arabs ! " 

But at that very moment a rider covered with dust 
stopped in the public, square and, according to the 
Arab custom, tore his tunic in the front and in the 
back, slit his camel's ears, upset his saddle and began 
howling like a demon. When an excited crowd had 
gathered round him, the man, half naked and covered 
with sand and blood, wailed aloud : " O Qoraishites ! 
O shame ! Help ! Help ! " continuing to howl. 
At last he told them that Abu Sofyan 's caravan was 
menaced by Mahomet's army and it would be difficult 
indeed to save its riches. 



" You shall see I " exclaimed the Qoraishites. 
" This shall not be a repetition of Nakhla ! " Some 
wanted to call in the aid of the neighbouring tribes, 
to arm the slaves, to mobilize the Ahabish. Others 
said : " We have not time for that. What is to be 
done must be done with speed." The. Qoraishites 
armed themselves in haste, some leaving the counter 
and shop for the saddle, and others the pen and the 
ledger for the lance and the sabre without having 
recourse to the aid of the Ahabish, their mercenaries, 
mere black slaves inhabiting the suburbs. Those of 
the Qoraishites who could not go sent a substitute. 
El 'Asi ben Hisham went as a substitute for Abu Lahab, 
who paid him forty thousand dirhems. There was 
also a small number of black slaves, hastily armed with 
short javelins which they handled very skilfully. 

The army of Mecca, one thousand strong, having 
seven hundred camels and two hundred horses, 
confident because of its superior numbers and the 
advantage of a force of cavalry, took the road to Badr. 

The Mussulman army was entrenched in the Badr 
valley in a favourable position on the north and east 
side facing the road to Mecca. Those who were 
mounted were armed with lances and sabres ; those 
on foot with bows and arrows. Then they dug a 
ditch causing all the streams of the valley to flow in 
front of their stronghold. And Sa c d ben Mo'adh, 
full of zeal for the safety of the Prophet, had a small 
hut of branches constructed on a hillock behind the 

The Mussulman army had rested, was in excellent 
form and in position when, at dawn, coming from 
behind the sandy hill of Aqanqal, they espied the 
advancing Qoraishite army. A fortunate downpour 
of rain had filled the wells and settled the sand. 



The Mussulmans had sent spies to the well of 
the market-place at Badr where the Arabs of the 
neighbourhood and the passing caravans brought their 
beasts to drink. They seized two men who, after 
being beaten, told them that the Meccans were 
entrenched behind the sandyhill and that each day 
they slaughtered ten camels with which to feed 
themselves. " There are, therefore, a thousand 
of them," concluded Mahomet. " And which of the 
important men are amongst them ? " 

" 'Otba ben Rabi'a, Shai'ba ben Rabi c a, Abu Jahl, 
Omayya ben Khalaf, Ibn Hisham, 'Abbas, Abu'l 
Bakhturi and others are amongst them," was the 

" Mecca is offering us her liver (the best of her 

Two young Bedouin women were drawing water 
from the well in the market-place. " To-morrow," 
they said, "the Qoraishite caravan will pass here. 
We shall earn some money by being of use to them." 

Two Mussulman spies who had come to water their 
beasts overheard this conversation and reported it 
to Mahomet. But Abu Sofyan had also sent out 
scouts who noticed in the dung of these strangers' 
camels the presence of tiny date stones such as could 
only have come from Medina. They came to their 
own conclusions which they reported to their chief, 
who changed the route of the caravan, going more to 
the west, passing by the sand dunes near the sea. 

When the caravan of precious merchandise had 
thus escaped the Mussulmans, Abu Sofyan sent word 
to the Qoraishite army : " Our goods have been 
saved. You may go home." But Abu Jahl wanted 
to fight. 

" We did not come here for nothing at all," he 



declared, " and we shall not leave without celebrating 
the victory at the fair of Badr. We shall slay here for 
three days and eat camels' flesh and drink wine. The 
singers will sing of our prowess and the other Arabs 
will hear us," and the little red-haired man brandished 
his sword about wildly, shouting in verse that his 
seventy years would not keep him from fighting, that 
it was for the making of war that his mother had 
brought him into the world. . . . 

Several Ooraishite scouts approached the ditch 
of water dug by the Mussulmans and tried to drink 
it. The Prophet ordered his men to fall upon them. 
Only one escaped. 'Omai'r ben Wahab, gone in 
search of them, reported that the enemy was well 
posted and in a warlike mood. Neither he nor the 
man who had escaped were optimistic about the 
situation. 'Otba ben Rabi c a said : 

" If we fight we shall kill our brothers, our uncles, 
our cousins. We would do better to return home and 
let Mahomet face the other Arabs ... If they give 
him battle so much the better. At least we will have 
nothing to fear from reprisals." 

This wise counsel enraged Abu Jahl, who had 
already taken his shining armour out of its casing. 
" We shall not listen to 'Otba," he cried. " He speaks 
thus because he has a son in Mahomet's camp and 
because he is afraid of these eaters of camels' flesh. 
We shall not leave here until God has chosen between 
them and us." 

He called to 'Amir ben el Hadrami, the brother of 
the man who had been killed at Nakhla. 'Amir 
tore his garments and, naked, brandishing his lance, 
he called loudly and pathetically for vengeance. After 
this scene no one would listen to 'Otba, and the 
imposing army set out. After having passed around 



Aqanqal Hill, the army was spied by the Mussulmans, 
who sallied forth, expecting that a rich caravan, so 
feebly protected, would fall into their hands almost 
without a struggle ; but when they found themselves 
actually face to face with an enemy far greater than 
them in numbers they lost heart. But the enthusiasm, 
of the Prophet revived their courage ; for he promised 
them victory in the name of God. Besides, it was too 
late to turn back. 

Battles in Arabia are not generally very bloody. 
They consist, usually, in a series of single combats, of 
noisy charges, of flights either real or feigned, all of 
which results in a mighty tumult but not many victims. 
The Arabian warrior is a mixture of bravado and 
extreme caution, although having much real courage. 
He is careful not to expose himself unnecessarily ; 
he seeks the maximum of advantage with the minimum 
of trouble. "War is a ruse." He prefers the razzia 
to an open fight. The Arab, even the Arab of to-day, 
is no more able to accept the methods of modern 
warfare than could have the cavaliers of Crecy. 
But up to a certain point Mahomet invented a new sort 
of strategy which by no means was the least of his works. 

The battle of Badr began by single combats and a 
great exchange of words ; 'Otba ben Rabi'a, Abu 
Sofyan's father-in-law, his brother Shai'ba and his son, 
El Walid, all clad in armour, came forth and challenged 
the bravest of the enemy. Three young Ansar came 
forward. But the three Ommeiades refused to 
fight with them saying : 

" No, no, our challenge is meant for the renegades 
of our city." 

Then Hamza, with an ostrich plume on his breast, 
'Ali wearing a cuirass protecting both front and back 
(a rather rare thing) and 'Oba'ida presented themselves 


and called out their names loudly. Then the six charged 
furiously, Hamza and 'Ali killed Shai'ba and El Walid 
and then came to the aid of 'Obai'da, dangerously 
wounded. They killed 'Otba and carried off 'Obai'da, 
who was mortally wounded, having one foot cut off. 
He died soon after. Mecca had lost her three greatest 

But others came forward. Once more the 
Qoraishites were beaten. Then Mahomet gave the 
orders and the confusion became general. When 
those dying of thirst dragged themselves to the ditch 
to drink, the Mussulmen archers shot them full of 
arrows and the noonday sun cast millions of burning 
darts upon the scene of slaughter. The Prophet, 
accompanied by Abu Bakr, entered his hut, before 
which stood Sa'd ben Mo'adh, with sword in hand, 
and several Ansar. In the valley the battle raged. 
Cries mounted in clouds of dust and there was an 
acrid smell of blood in the air. Mahomet, in an 
excess of ecstacy and nervousness, fainted. Abu 
Bakr looked at him, stretched out on the ground and 
stiff as a cataleptic, his face bathed in sweat. Finally 
the Prophet came to himself. 

" Let us rejoice," said he, "for God's help is at 
hand," and he ordered that they bring him his horse. 

" You are in the shade while your companions 
fight under the sun," the Angel Gabriel had said to 
him, so, in spite of the protestations of Abu Bakr and 
Sa'd, he mounted his horse and joined in the conflict. 
He called upon his men to battle valiantly and 
promised them paradise as a reward. 

"Is there nothing between me and paradise except 
death ? " asked 'Oma'ir ben el Hamam, who had 
been eating dates the while. 

" No, nothing," replied the Prophet. 



'Omai'r threw away the dates and rushed to be 

" What would please God greatly ? " asked young 
Awf ben el Harith, one of the three Ansar who had 
first stepped forth in answer to the challenge of the 
sons of Rabi'a. 

" To fight the enemy without a coat of mail," 
was the answer. 

The young man at once threw off his cuirass and 
jumped into the fray where he soon fell under a 
shower of blows. 

Evening was coming on. The battle had become 
a hand to hand fight. Above its din, the noise of the 
lances as they struck against the shields and the yelling 
of the warriors, could be heard the thin voice of Abu 
Jahl shouting : 

" All ties between you and us are cut for ever ! " 

Mahomet arrived. His horse's hoofs sunk into the 
sand. The Prophet dismounted, took a handful of 
fine sand and threw it in the direction of the enemy 
with a magnificent gesture, almost ritual in character, 
as he said : 

" May confusion enter their ranks ! " And he 
cried to his own men : " Fight without fear, for 
paradise lies in the shadow of the sword." 

He then entered his hut as the Mussulmans gave 
their war-cry : " Ahad ! Ahad ! One God ! One 
God ! " 

At this point the outcome of the battle was decided 
as well as the destiny of Islam. The balance began to 
turn in favour of the Mussulmans. Unknown forces 
from nowhere intervened those forces to which the 
soul of man is linked by invisible jewelled chains. 
The Qoraishites had lost many of their best swordsmen ; 
they held a less favourable position, but worse, they 



were dying of thirst. They had the advantage, how- 
ever, of superior numbers. But those incalculable 
elements, those forces which so often unexpectedly 
determine the fate of man, intervened. The heavens 
themselves became a battle-ground. Those flashes 
of lightning were the cuirasses of the celestial 
warriors as they darted about in the angry heavens ; 
those peals of thunder were the blasts of their trumpets 
and that low, distant rumbling was the sound of the 
wings of the celestial horses. Those strange lights 
falling on the eyes of the dying below were the 
reflection of their yellow turbans and of their long, 
white robes which fluttered like banners in the wind. 

<Ali killed seven idolaters one after the other. Ez 
Zubai'r, challenged by 'Obaida, whose whole body 
was encased in a thick suit of mail so that only his 
eyes were visible, struck him in the eye with such 
force that the end of his lance was bent. 

Abu Jahl continued to fight. Two young Ansar 
had sworn to kill this in suiter of the Prophet or to die 
in the attempt. 'Abderrahman ben 'Awf recognized 
him as he struck in all directions in the thickest of the 
fight, and called to the two young Ansar. They leapt 
upon him and one of them, Mo'adz, succeeded in 
throwing him down. But the old man's son, 'Ikrima, 
struck the arm of his father's aggressor so savagely 
that the left arm was torn from the socket, and hung 
down from the shoulder by a shred of flesh. The 
young man was so drunk with the heat of battle that 
he did not at first notice his ghastly wound. Then 
realizing his condition, he bent over so that his arm 
lay on the ground and placing his foot upon it, tore 
it from the shoulder with one wrench. 

The Qoraishites began to feel themselves beaten 
and took to flight. They dropped their shields, their 


cuirasses and their arms, the better to run and retard 
pursuit also, for arms and cuirasses were objects of 
great value in Arabia and the conquerors were certain 
to stop to gather them up. 

'Abdallah ben Mas'ud found Abu Jahl in a dying 
state. He put his foot on his chest ready to deal him 
the death-blow, but the old man asked : " To whom 
is the victory ? " 

" To God and his Prophet." 

The dying man lifted himself up painfully and with 
a terrible look, a mingling of sadness, rage and pride ; 
he grasped 'Abdallah's beard and said : 

" Little herdsman that you are ! You are about to 
kill me. But you aspire a trifle too high. I am the 
noblest man that it shall be given you to put to death. 
And I have already been vanquished by a mere 
peasant ..." 

'Abdallah cut off his head and brought it to the 

" There is no God but Allah ! " said he, 
prostrating himself. " This man was the Pharaoh 
of our nation, and he has been punished as shall 
be punished all the enemies of Allah ! " 

El 'Abbas, Mahomet's uncle, who had fought in 
the Qoraishite army, had been made prisoner by an 
Ansari. Mahomet had commanded that those of his 
family, those of the Hashimites who had remained at 
Mecca, and Abu'l Bakhturi, to whom he was under 
obligation for being instrumental in having the 
excommunication against himself and his family 
annulled, were to be spared. This order, however, 
was not accepted without remonstrances. 

'Abbas was saved but Abu'l Bakhturi was less 
fortunate. Some Ansar found him beside one of 
his friends. 



The Messenger of God has forbidden us to kill 
you. Surrender." 

" And my friend ? " he inquired. 

" It is only you we are to spare. As for him, we 
shall kill him." 

" Then we shall die together. By Almighty God ! 
the women of Mecca shall not say that I abandoned 
my friend because I did not know how to be generous 
with my life." And as he died beside his friend, 

* * 

Abu'l Bakhturi improvized a poem on this theme. 
The murderer, improvizing in his turn, replied : 

" I strike with my lance until it curves like a bow. 
As a mother-camel suckling her young, so my sword 
gives to Death streams of blood with which to quench 
her thirst." 

The pursuit continued, as well as the search for 
booty. 'Abderraham ben 'Awf had gathered several 
valuable cuirasses, and was returning to camp bent 
under their weight when he met, seated sadly on a 
stone, with his son beside him, Omayya ben Khalaf, 
a friend of his in Mecca, who called to him : " Do 
you want to take me as prisoner ? I am worth more 
than those cuirasses." 

Recognizing his friend, 'Abderrahman threw aside 
the armour and conducted Omayya and his son to 
the Mussulman camp by the hand. 

Then Bilal, a former negro slave of Omayya's, 
whom he had badly maltreated in the past, went by, 
and recognizing his former master, turned as pale as 
his black skin would allow. " The chief of the infidels ! 
(ras el kufr)" he cried, rolling his eyes about wildly. 
" He must be killed ! I shall never be safe if he is 
allowed to go free." 

" O Bilal ! " said 'Abderrahman, " he is my 



" No, I am not safe as long as he is safe. The chief 
of the infidels is Omayya ben Khalaf ! " 

" Do you hear, O negro, I tell you that he is my 
prisoner who belongs only to me," said 'Abderrahman 

" I am lost if he is spared," repeated the black, 
not wishing to give up. " The chief of the infidels 
is Omayya ben Khalaf." 

And full of rancour he began to call in a loud 
voice : " O Ansar^ O aids of Allah and of the Prophet ! 
The chief of the infidels is Omayya ben Khalaf and 
I am not safe if he is safe ! " 

Thus he incited a certain number of Mussulmans 
who soon began to echo his cries of death. Suddenly 
a man drew his sword and smote the son of Omayya 
who let out such a piercing shriek that 'Abderrahman 
declared he had never heard anything like it. 

" Save yourself ! " called 'Abderrahman to the 
unfortunate father. " Save yourself, by Allah ! 
I did not do you a good turn in taking you prisoner." 

Omayya tried to escape, but being stout, he was 
readily caught and put to death, although his friend 
tried to shield him with his own body. 

" May God be merciful to this Bilal," groaned 
'Abderrahman. " I have lost my cuirasses and he has 
made me lose my prisoner as well." 

The son of Abu Bakr, 'Abderrahman, had remained 
pagan and when his father saw him and asked what 
had become of his possessions in Mecca he fled 
as he called back insolently in verse : 

" There remain only some bows and arrows and a 
sword to cut off the shame of old age." 

The memorable day of Badr, when the Mussulmans 
had started out with the idea of easy pillage and had 
raised themselves at moments almost to the sublime, 



unfortunately was blemished at the end by the 
avariciousness of the conquerors and by a dawning 
fanaticism. On the battlefield lay fourteen slain 
Mussulmans and seventy Qoraishites. The victors had 
taken seventy-four prisoners. They began to bury the 
dead. The Mussulmans were piously laid to rest while 
the bodies of the enemy dead were thrown pell-mell into 
an old well and then grossly insulted. The corpses 
had already begun to rot but the victors could not 
make up theirs minds to cover them with earth, 
preferring to insult them longer. 'Omar asked the 
Prophet to call away his men but the Prophet replied : 
" In the excess of their joy, they will remain deaf 
to my orders." 

Some of the Mussulmans' own fathers were amongst 
the enemy dead. 

On the third day Mahomet approached the horrible 
pit and began a dramatic speech which, he said, 
could be heard by the dead as well as by the living. 
" Now they know that what I said was the truth," 
said he, continuing in antithetic verse : 

" Have you found what your idols promised you ? 
As for us, we have found what our Lord promised us. 
What bad countrymen you have been to your Prophet ! 
You treated me as a liar but others believed in me. 
You drove me from your midst but others welcomed 
me. You fought me but others helped me." 

The Mussulman army spent three days deciding 
the fate of the prisoners and the distribution of the 
booty. 'Omar wanted all the captives to be killed ; 
Abu Bakr wanted them to be held for ransom. The 
latter counsel prevailed. El 'Abbas, Mahomet's 
uncle, 'Aqil, his cousin and 'Ali's brother, had to pay 
large sums for their release. 'Abbas was stripped 
naked by those who coveted his splendid raiment; 



Mahomet asked them to find a tunic with which 
to cover him, but only 'Abdallah ben Obayy had 
one large enough for 'Abbas. Some of the prisoners 
who had neither family nor riches were released 
against a promise never again to bear arms against 
Islam. The others were to await the arrival of their 
ransom at Medina; some of them paid off by 
teaching the people of Medina how to read and 
write, an accomplishment of almost every Qoraishite 
but very rare in Medina. 

On the heels of the religious enthusiasm came 
disputes about the sharing of the booty. They almqst 
came to blows. Abu Sofyan's -rich caravan had escaped 
but they had acquired, nevertheless, a great quantity 
of arms and many camels, to say nothing of the money 
that was due for the captives' release. But how distri- 
bute this amongst the warriors, those who had brought 
in the booty and those who had maintained the guard 
around the Prophet ? The dispute was bitter amongst 
the three parties. Mahomet finally decided that, 
since all belonged to God, his Prophet would distribute 
the spoils as he saw fit. He ordered that everything 
be taken away in mass and that camp be broken up. 
The next day the distribution (equal shares to all 
of them, which caused much dissension) took place 
on a hill between El Madhiq and En Nazia. 

The division of the spoils was an important question 
that arose frequently. It was necessary to establish 
a precedent. Very opportunely Mahomet had a 
revelation. God ordered him to keep a fifth (the 
Arabian chiefs took a quarter of the whole), which 
he used according to his needs, those of his family, 
the poor, the orphans, the travellers, and the 
holy war. 

At Es Safra, Mahomet bade 'Ali cut off the head of 

193 o 


one of the prisoners,- Nadhr ben el Harith, who had 
been one of the foremost amongst the persecutors of 
the Mussulmans at Mecca. It was he who had 
ridiculed the Koran and had recited Persian legends 
which he declared to be more beautiful than " the 
tales of the ancients " told by the Prophet. A little 
farther along the road 'Oqba met with the same fa.te 
for almost having strangled Mahomet one day in 
the Ka'ba. 

"O Mahomet," he pleaded, "what will become of 
my children ? " 

" They will go to hell even as you ! " replied the 

A few weeks later someone recited to Mahomet 
an elegy on the death of the unfortunate Nadhr, 
composed by his sister, Qatila : 

" O Mahomet, son of a noble mother and a generous 
father, what harm would have befallen you had you 
been magnanimous ? . . . The swords of his brothers 
cut into him ; they dragged him to death, patient, 
exhausted, and chained like a slave." 

Then Mahomet regretted his deed and said : 
" Could I but have heard these beautiful verses 
before, Nadhr would be living still." 

Zaid carried the tidings of the victory to Medina. 
He arrived as they were burying Roqai'a, Mahomet's 
daughter and 'Othman's wife, deceased after a very 
short illness. 

Then they went before the victors, the young 
women playing their native timbrels (def) and singing. 

Badr was the first of a series of victories which were 
to change the aspect of the world. That same year 
occurred the victory of the Christian Greeks over the 
Persian idolaters, as foretold in the Koran. 




My tears have flowed like the 
pearls of a necklace whose firing 
is Broken. 

r ~T'HE square in front of the Ka'ba was usually 
^ animated at this hour, but to-day it was almost 
deserted because all the great Qoraishites had gone 
to war. Safwan ben Omayya was playing darts with 
several old men, a gambling game forbidden by the 
Koran. They were each wearing two tunics, for the 
winter evenings were cool, and they were seated with 
their hairy legs folded under them. Several pious 
persons came to do the fawaf (the seven processional 
rounds of the Ka'ba) and to implore the help of 
Hobal, El Lat and El 'Ozza for the safety of the city. 
They were anxious because they had had no news of 
the army. 

A man arrived in haste. Safwan stopped the game, 
" The caravan is saved ! " cried the man. " Abu 
Sofyan is coming and all is well. No one has been 
killed and no camels lost. Our wealth has been 
doubled and tripled on the road of the land of Rum." 

"Praised be God," cried Safwan. "And the 
army ? " 

"I do not know. The caravan escaped the 
renegades of our city, the companions of Mahomet 
(may God disperse them !) by taking to the trail 


along the sea. No doubt the army remained to further 
protect their route or perhaps they have gone forth 
to give the traitors of Yathrib a lesson they will 
remember, that is, if there remain any of them to 

The old Ommayad continued his game, reassured. 
But a warrior presently arrived with his sabre still 
hanging at his side although his shield was gone. 
His legs were covered with dust, his garment torn. 
As he ran, he let out sinister cries. The women and 
the children followed in his wake, the women moaning 
and going through the gesture of tearing out their 
hair and scratching their cheeks. 

" What is it ? Who are you ? " asked one of the 

" I am one of the Banu Khoza'a. I took part in 
the battle with your men. We have been shamefully 

" What are you saying ? " 

" 'Otba ben Rabi'a is dead ; Shai'ba ben Rabi'a is 
dead ; Abu'l Hakam (Abu Jahl) is dead ; El Walid 
is dead ; the two sons of El Hajjaj have been killed. 
Abu'l Bakhturi is dead ... all the Qoraishite nobles 
are dead ! " 

They looked at each other torn between stupor 
and consternation. 

" This man is mad," said Safwan ben Omayya in 
a whisper. " Ask him about me. He will tell you 
that I am dead, too ! " 

" And Safwan ben Omayya ? " they asked the 

" Ibn Omayya ? He was not at the battle, but 
his father and his brother were killed under my very 
eyes. . . ." 

The news of the defeat spread quickly. Abu 



Lahab was at home. A slave hurried to bring him 
the news but was punished for his pains. Then the 
stout, choleric, old man, leaning on his stick, went 
out into the town to the Zemzem wells where 
Abu RarT, El Abbas's slave, was modelling some 
pottery which he did in the service of his master. 
He was a timid, frail, little man and a Christian, so, 
with a woman who shared his sentiments, he rejoiced 
at the defeat of the polytheists. The stout Abu 
Lahab stamped with rage and, leaning against the 
edge of the sacred wall, turned his back upon the 
slave. Abu Sofyan and Moghira likewise stopped at 
the well. 

" Tell me the real news," said Abu Lahab to the 
caravan-leader, " You ought to know. I cannot 
believe what I have heard." 

Abu Sofyan sat down ; the people stood about him, 
hurling questions at this wisest of the Qoraishites. 
" What happened at Badr ? " 

" Our men encountered the others near the wells 
of Badr and then fled. Mahomet's followers killed 
as many as they wanted to kill and made prisoners 
of others. What could have given them this 
power ? . . . Ah, why did they not follow my advice 
and return, since the caravan was saved ? " 

" The angels helped them." These words escaped 
the lips of the little potter, Abu Ran"'. Suddenly 
Abu Lahab turned round and slapped the slave who 
became very pale but straightened up as if to reply. 
But the angry old man whose arms had retained some 
of the strength of their youth, picked him up as if 
he were a feather and sent him rolling on the ground. 
The old man would have beaten him further but 
the woman who was present gave him aid. Hitting 
Abu Lahab with a stick on the head fiercely, she cried : 



" Aren't you ashamed to beat this poor, little 
man ! You dare to do it because his master is not 
here to defend him." 

Made ridiculous by having been beaten by a 
woman and furious over the disaster of Badr, Abu 
Lahab died seven days later, less of an abcess which 
had developed (or was it smallpox ?) than from rage. 

Thenceforth Mecca could think of nothing but 
revenge. The rich, animated by true civic patriotism, 
gave their part of the profits of the caravan (half 
a million) towards this end, being accustomed 
as financiers to huge losses in big speculations. The 
ransom of their prisoners amounted to two hundred 
thousand dirhems and, in addition, arms were paid 
over to the Mussulmans. All internal disagreements 
were laid aside. The aristocracy of Mecca in this way 
gave a display of the famous hilm, that political wisdom, 
the exercise of which later put the early destiny of the 
Moslem empire into their hands, giving them a much 
wider field for the development of their powers. 

Abu Sofyan, who was tacitly recognized as the 
leader of the movement, gave the full measure of 
his value. One of his sons had been killed and another 
taken prisoner. He did not hasten the release of 
his son not wishing to betray the anxiety and the 
critical situation of the city. His father-in-law, a 
Bedouin Dawsite, had been murdered by a 
Makzumite, but he forbade his clan to wreak 
vengeance so as to avoid internal discord. His son, 
Yezid, brandished his lance about and called for 
vengeance. His father tore the lance from his hand 
and very nearly broke it across his head, saying : 

" What ! Are we to begin a civil war under these 
conditions for the sake of a Bedouin ? " 

The Ooraishites wrapped themselves in a mantle 




of Stoicism. Feast days were forbidden and the 
musicians had no employment. No longer did they 
sing publicly, as had been the custom, the glories 
of the warriors killed in battle. They were even 
forbidden to weep for them. 

A blind old man who had lost his three sons at Badr 
restrained with much difficulty from giving vent to 
his grief. One night he heard moaning and sobbing 
in a neighbouring house. 

" Go see what it is," he said to his slave. " Perhaps 
it is now permitted to mourn the dead." 

But it was only a woman who had lost her camel 
and the old man once more had to resign himself 
to silent tears. He wrote some melancholy verses 
about it. But his poems were not the only ones, 
for the battle of the warriors was always followed 
by the battle of the poets. 

Although he disliked the poets and was careful 
to avoid identifying himself with them and to 
distinguish between their regularly rhymed verse and 
the free verse of the Koran inspired by Allah and not 
by the jinns ; although he abominated the free morals, 
the licentiousness and scepticism so frequent amongst 
the bards of Arabia who composed ballads in honour 
of the ancient traditions of a past society both 
anarchical and pagan, Mahomet always had some 
poets amongst his immediate following (as did all 
the chiefs of tribes and the rich Qoraishite tradesmen), 
for he knew that satires could wound more 
dangerously than arrows. At that period, the poets 
were the news-carriers of the peninsula and all the 
powers had need of their help. They were, in a 
sense, soothsayers (shair) to whom inspiration came 
while in a trance. They were odd people, anointing 
only one side of their heads, wearing only one shoe, 



letting their cloaks drag and proving their communica- 
tion with the Invisible by falling into trances. Their 
satires had also the power of incantations, the word 
having an influence in itself hence the fear thev 
inspired and the reason for seeking their goodwill. 
They were the tribal arbiters ; questions of war 
were not decided without them. 

In order to protect himself against the satires of 
the Qoraishite poets Mahomet took unto himself 
three poets of Medina : Hassan ben Thabit, Ka'b 
ben Malik and 'Abdallah ben Rawaha. The two 
first-named did not hesitate to attack the honour of 
the Qoraishite families while the latter confined his 
attacks chiefly to their lack of faith and their deeds. 

Omayya ben Abi's-Salt, the hanif or vague mono- 
theist with leanings towards Christianity, who could 
never forgive Mahomet for becoming the Prophet, 
was likewise a poet. Certain poems, with their 
descriptions of heaven and hell very much like the 
Koran, are usuallv attributed to him. But now he 


wrote songs to the glory of those fallen at Badr, 
" the generous sons of Qoraish, the strong men, the 
magnificent horses, all turned to dust in an evening." 
Hind, the daughter of 'Otba and the wife of Abu 
Sofyan, celebrated in verse the death of her father, 
" the chief who would not retreat ", whom the 
Mussulmans " had struck after he was down ", 
whom they had dragged to the shameful pit " his 
face in the dust ". 

The Mussulman poets, on the other hand, sang 
of their victory. Mahomet himself upon the field of 
battle chanted a song of triumph, several disconnected 
fragments of which are to be found in the Koran. 
" The mourners of Qoraish," sang a Mussulman 
bard, " have rended their garments. Iblis (the devil) 



has fooled our enemies." He admits that " we wanted 
only their camels (Abu Sofyan's caravan), we asked 
for nothing else." 

" My tears have flowed like the pearls of a necklace 
whose luring is broken," Harith ben Hisham replied 
to this poem, and he appealed to the Qoraishites to 
revenge their heroes, to defend their territory and 
their gods. 

Hassan ben Thabit declared, pointing to his tongue : 

" There is no leather that I cannot pierce with 
this weapon. It is short but I would not trade it 
against a weapon as long as the distance between 
San'a and Bosra." 

This poet was an Ansari\ he naturally glorified the 
exploits of his fellow-townsmen who had welcomed 
the Prophet so whole-heartedly and had shared so 
generously their possessions with the Emigrants, 
whose assistance had determined the victory of Badr. 
But his invectives against the Qoraishites finally 
annoyed the Emigrants, for after all the Qoraishites 
were their relatives. Mahomet had to defend the 
reputation of his fellow-countrymen, for he did not 
want to see their prestige die out. 

The Jews, at first surprised to see the Qoraishites 
beaten by a handful of peasants from Medina (Ka'b 
ben el Ashraf composed a melancholy song about 
the ruin of these patricians, these " kings of Arabia "), 
then decided that they need not come to a hasty 
conclusion because of the easy defeat of a troop of 
bourgeois without military training. They became 
alarmed at Mahomet's increasing authority ; his 
prestige was heightened by a victory in which the 
people saw the confirmation of his prophetic mission. 
The Jews began to show their hostility to Islam 



Medina, however, was filled with joy. Prosperity 
came with the payment of the ransoms. Mahomet 
had ordered that the prisoners should be well treated. 
Some of them had brothers and cousins amongst 
the Mussulmans. One of them, Abu'l 'Asi ben 
Rabi'a, was Zainab's husband, hence the son-in-law 
of Mahomet. He was also a nephew of Khadija. 
Zainab had remained in Mecca. She sent as the 
ransom of her husband a valuable necklace which 
had been their wedding gift from Khadija. Upon 
seeing these jewels once belonging to his dead wife, 
Mahomet was overcome with emotion. He wept, 
softened, and asked the Mussulmans to consent to 
the liberation of his son-in-law without ransom. 
Abu'l 'Asi left Medina and took the precious necklace 
with him. Mahomet, however, refused to diminish 
the ransom of his uncle, 'Abbas, by so much 
as a penny and he would have none of the pro- 
testations of sympathy that the old miser professed 
for Islam. 

The Prophet had still another daughter, Fatima, 
who was twenty years of age and unmarried. Roqai'a 
had just died. Omm Kulthum was married to 
'Othman. Fatima was a tall, thin, anaemic girl 
(she died young as did all Mahomet's children) with 
by no means a sweet disposition. She was neither as 
pretty as Roqai'a had been nor as intelligent as Zainab. 
Although well past the age when girls may expect 
offers of marriage in Arabia, she was not at all 
flattered when one day her father's voice said to her 
across the doorway-hanging of her apartment : 

" 'AH ben Abi Talib, the son of your uncle, has 
pronounced your name." 

The custom demanded that the young woman 
remain silent if she accepted, but if she wished to 



refuse the offer she shook the hanging over the 
doorway in protest. 

Fatima remained silent, but this, no doubt, was 
due to modesty, timidity or perhaps mere stupor, for 
later she said to her father : 

" You have married me to a beggar." Fatima 
regarded him as a man both poor in earthly and 
spiritual blessings, ugly and, although courageous, 
a miserable sort of fiance. 'AH, on the other hand, 
was not much more enthusiastic about Fatima. 

When we read the tales of the exploits of Sidna 
'Ali, his trials and tribulations and his tragic end 
(all the cause of his deification amongst the tribes of 
the Druse and the Nosairis), we would like to imagine 
a radiant, young hero, filled with grace and power, 
whose divine face " had never been sullied by bowing 
before an idol ". We must be content to imagine 
'Ali, however, as a little, dark man with thin arms, 
a big head, a pair of large, heavy eyes and a flat nose ; 
(the Hashimites usually had noses so long that they 
" drank before the lips ", it was said). He was 
bald-headed and had a large abdomen, even when 
still young. But the expression of his face inspired 
sympathy, and when he smiled he showed his teeth. 
He was brave, pious, faithful and honest beyond a 
doubt, but he was likewise indolent and his character 
lacked decision. 

" What a strange looking creature that is," said a 
woman in passing. " One might say that he is made 
of parts that do not match." 

The marriage was duly celebrated, although 'AH 
had to gather idhkhir to sell to the Jewish gem- 
merchants in order to have money to pay for the 
marriage feast. He had to give a dowry of four 
hundred dirhems, two-thirds of which was in perfumes, 



A cuirass captured at the battle of Badr, constituted 
his wife's marriage-portion. The feast was joyous, 
the guests ate heartily, the young slaves beat on their 
tambourines and sang the praises of the heroes of Badr. 

But the night and the days that followed were less 
joyful. They were so poor they had not even a bed. 
Misery and discord were many times guests at their 
fireside until the rich booties of the great Mussulman 
victories relieved them a little. The weeping Fdtima 
was often exhausted by housework. When she 
complained of her fatigue and her infirmities to her 
father, showing him her hands made callus from the 
grinding of the grain and the kneading of the flour, 
and asked for a slave to help her, he replied by telling 
her of a prayer that would prove very efficacious if 
recited just before going to bed. There was no lack 
of slaves at Medina after the year 3 of the Hegira. 
'Aisha had three, but Fatima was obliged to wait 
until the taking of Mecca before she could have one 

'Ali would grumblingly draw water in the palm- 
grove of a Jew in order to earn a handful of dates which 
he would give to his wife with a sour face saying : 

" Here ! Here is food for you and the children." 
These children were Hasan and Hosai'n, who are 
the ancestors of all Mahomet's descendants. Instead 
of facing the situation bravely, 'AH would sulk and 
then go to sleep in the mosque. His father-in-law 
would try to reason with him and would succeed in 
temporarily reconciling the couple. But one day 
his daughter came to him weeping bitterly. Her 
husband had beat her. 

Although the Prophet would speak of 'Ali's 
prominence in the Mussulman movement due to 
his early adherence to the faith by way of consoling 



Fatima, he really did not think much of his son-in-law. 
He felt that his Ommayad son-in-law, the distinguished 
'Othman, and the continually absent Abu'l 'Asi did 
him more credit. He considered 'Ali as an incapable 
and was displeased that he did not make his wife 
happy. He ordered 'Ali to chop off the heads of the 
condemned but never honoured him with a command. 
When 'AH began to speak of taking another wife 
" over " Fatima, the Prophet grew angry and protested 
publicly from the pulpit. Besides, 'Ali had shown 
a decided lack of diplomacy by having in mind the 
daughter of Abu Jahl himself. To house under the 
same roof the daughter of. God's Messenger and of 
his most bitter enemy this was indeed an unfortunate 
idea ! 'Ali was displeased that the Prophet would 
not allow him to indulge in the polygamy accorded 
to his other sons-in-law. It was even worse when 
'Ali and Fatima, united by common enemies, had to 
fight against the wives of the Prophet. 

" You do not take your daughter's part," 
complained Fatima. 

'Ali, who was as unfortunate in politics as he was 
in marriage, betrayed, abandoned and duped by 
time-servers of all sorts, descends to us, nevertheless, 
as a noble character." Even if the authenticity of all 
the verses and all the maxims attributed to him is 
doubtful, it is at least probable that life inspired him 
with a pessimistic stoicism ; he must have pronounced 
these sentences with some degree of elation of spirit : 
" Despair puts the soul to rest. ..." "If you can 
resist yourself, you will have peace . . ." " Desire 
kills him who desires . . ." " Men are as low as 
their desires . . ." " The world is a carcase ; 
whosoever wishes a part of it should accustom 
himself to the society of dogs." 



Fortunately, Hasan and Hosam were born during 
the early years of their marriage, and while their 
birth aggravated the anasmic condition of their 
mother they rejoiced the heart of their grandfather. 

" Dear little ones," said Mahomet. " It is because 
of you that man becomes cowardly. You are the 
perfume of Allah." 

From their very birth he pronounced incantations 
over them, mixed his saliva with theirs and said the 
shahada in their ears. Mahomet arrived too late 
after the birth of the second child to mingle his 
saliva with that of the child before its first feeding ; 
therefore Hosam was less intelligent than his older 

"It is he who resembles me the most," said 'AH 
without irony. 

" They resemble the Prophet more than you, 
'AH," sang Fatima as she rocked them in her arms. 
And C AH laughed. 

Mahomet loved to play with his grandchildren, to 
kiss them on the navel, to have them pass between 
his legs, to suck their tongues, to make them jump 
upon his knees. He allowed them to climb upon his 
back while he knelt in prayer, and he prolonged his 
prostration so as not to disturb their play. If they 
made water on his clothes, he would not allow them 
to be scolded, but would pour a few drops of clean 
water over his tunic. Should they arrive at the mosque 
dressed in pretty, red robes, Mahomet would interrupt 
his sermon, descend from the pulpit and take them 
by the hand, excusing himself by saying : 

" Allah has indeed said, ' Your children shall be a 
temptation unto you '." 

'Ali, on the day of his wedding, had gone to gather 
idhkhir with some friends so as to earn a little money. 



Upon his return he made his camel kneel down 
before the house of an inhabitant of Medina. Now, 
in that house, Hamza, Mahomet's uncle, was drinking 
with a woman-singer. The orgy had already lasted 
for some time and Hamza was very drunk. 

" Hi ! Hamza," cried the woman, " finish off 
the two old fat camels." 

Hamza rose and, like an automaton, seized his 
sabre and rushed at the camels. He cut off their 
humps, cut open their chests and tore the livers out 
from within them. 

'Ali returned just in time to witness this terrible 
spectacle and immediately complained to the Prophet. 
The Prophet, with 'Ali and Zai'd, ran to the scene, 
and at the sight, the Prophet went into a rage. But 
Hamza, covered with blood and hiccoughing, shouted : 

" Who are you but the slaves of my ancestors ! " 

Mahomet grew pale and retreated, looking the 
drunkard full in the eye. This scene and other orgies 
degenerating into bloody quarrels in the camps resulted 
in the prohibition of fermented liquors and of 
gambling. The Arabians were in the habit of drinking 
a great deal, especially nabidh^ a wine made of dates, 
more common than that of the grape. They made 
alcoholic drinks of honey, wheat and barley. To 
battle against this scourge, Mahomet took progressive 
measures. First the Koran forbade the faithful to 
come to prayer in a state of drunkenness ; then 
excessive wine-drinking was declared evil by the 
Prophet, who also said that such drinks had more 
disadvantages than advantages. After the scandal 
caused by Hamza, he said that spirits and games of 
chance were the creation of the devil who, by means 
of them, hoped to create discord amongst the 
faithful. Additional brawls having occurred under 



the influence of drink, Mahomet unconditionally 
forbade its use ; wine, gambling and sacrifice to the 
idols were the abominations to be avoided by good 
Mussulmans wishing to enter Paradise. The Prophet 
sent a herald through the streets of Medina to 
announce that both the drinking and the commerce 
of wine and fermented drinks were forbidden. 

Anas ben Malik was offering some date wine to 
his uncles, Abu Talha, Obayy ben Ka'b and Abu 
'Oba'ida, as the herald passed in front of his house. 
" Come, Anas, pour all that out," said Abu Talha 
and, as an example, he spilled the contents of his 
cup. Then Anas emptied the wine-jars and the 
liquor ran down the street. 

Several unimportant skirmishes took place in 
the course of the year. Abu Sofyan had taken 
a vow neither to perfume himself nor to 
approach his wives before giving battle to the 
Mussulmans. One day he went forth from Mecca 
with an escort of two hundred horsemen, approached 
Medina, passed the night in the kasba of a chief of 
the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir, burned some palm- 
trees near the city walls, killed two labourers and 
disappeared with the same rapidity with which he 
had come. Mahomet pursued him without, however, 
overtaking him. They found only some sacks of 
flour which the Qoraishites had left behind them at 
their camp. Hence this adventure is known as the 
sawiq^ or the boiled dish, meaning that the flour had 
been intended for boiling into a sort of porridge. 

A few days later Mahomet went to the well of 
El Qodr to disperse a gathering of the Banu Solai'm 
whose intentions were hostile. The Mussulmans 
arrived unexpectedly and were thus able to capture 
some flocks with their shepherds. 



The expedition of Bohran was without results ; 
at Qarada they captured a caravan which the 
Qoraishites were sending to Irak, as the route to Syria 
was blocked by the Mussulmans. The tribes of the 
desert began to take sides either for or against the 
new power that had sprung up, and in consequence 
there were innumerable complicated intrigues. 
Mahomet ordered the killing of the Sheikh of the 
Banu Lihyan because he was preparing an expedition 
against him. This tribe had asked for some Mussul- 
man missionaries. 'Asim ben Thabit went into their 
territory with ten men. Suddenly they were 
surrounded by two hundred horsemen of the Banu 
Lihyan riding at a gallop. 'Asim and his companions, 
finding themselves in danger, took refuge on a little 
hill where, although soon surrounded, they refused 
to surrender. 

" O Almighty God," cried 'Asim, as he fell pierced 
with arrows by the side of six other Mussulmans, 
" Send the news of our plight to your Prophet." 

The three survivors surrendered upon a promise 
to be spared. Their hands were tied behind their 
backs. One of them, refusing to march, had his 
throat cut on the spot. The two others were taken 
to Mecca and sold to the Qoraishites. One of them, 
KhobaTb, had killed El Harith at Badr. The son of 
the latter bought him from the Banu Lihyan Bedouins. 
He meant to kill him to " quiet the owl " hovering 
about the tomb of his father crying for vengeance. 
Chained in the house, the captive prepared to die 
stoically. The daughter of El Harith had lent him 
a razor and he was preparing his funeral-toilet by 
shaving his pubic hairs. At that moment the woman's 
small child ran up to the prisoner and seated itself 
on his lap. The mother, happening to turn round, 

209 p 


grew pale upon seeing Khobai'b with the sharp-edged 
iron in one hand while holding the child with the other. 
Petrified with fright, she could not speak. But the 
prisoner saw the change come over her face. 

" So you are afraid I might cut your son's throat ? " 
he said. " No, do not be afraid. I am not the sort 
of man who wreaks his vengeance on a child. " 

But his generosity did not save his life. They 
took him out of the horm so as not to slay him on 
hallowed ground. All the members of the avenging 
family were present. He asked for several minutes 
in which to pray, but prostrated himself only twice 
lesl: anyone attribute the length of his prayer to fear 
of death. And since that day Mussulmen pray thus 
when they are put to death in that way. 




The likeness of those who were 
charged with the observance of the 
law, and then observed it not, is 
as the likeness of an ass laden 
with books. . . . ye who follow 
the Jewish religion, if ye say 
that ye are the friends of God 
above other men. . . . 

Koran, Ixii, 5-6. 

Do ye therefore, whenever an 
aposJle cometh unto you with that 
which your souls desire not, proudly 
rejeft him, and accuse some of 
ivzposlure, and slay others. 

Koran, ii, 8 1 . 

'TTHE victory at Badr had Strengthened Mahomet's 
-*- authority at Medina, but all opposition was 
not dead. After having borne it for long, he found 
himself sufficiently well entrenched if not to annihilate 
his enemies legally, at least to make way with the 
most dangerous amongst them. Besides, there had 
been plots for the assassination of the Prophet. 
Safwan ben Omayya had promised to pay the debts 
of 'Omai'r ben Wahb if he would kill Mahomet. 
This plot was unearthed by 'Omar and the would-be 
assassin begged for mercy and became a Mussulman. 
The Jewish poetess, Asm a bint Merwan, having 
written uncomplimentary verses about the Prophet, 
was killed during the night while she lay asleep 



amongst her children with the youngest at her breast. 
Old Abu 'Afak, who was one hundred and twenty 
years of age, paid with his life for verses he had 
written against the Moslem conception of a religious 
community as opposed to the traditional clan idea. 

The Jews of Medina scarcely hid the sympathy 
they felt for the pagans of Mecca. As we have seen, 
one of their chiefs had received Abu Sofyan during 
the night, giving him information. As they did not 
know how to band together Mahomet was able to 
overcome them tribe by tribe. The first occasion 
came when a Mussulman was killed as the result 
of a fight in the market place of the Banu Qainoqa. 
The Jews of this tribe entrenched themselves in their 
quarter where the houses of several stories were close 
together and opened only on to an inner court closed 
by heavy doors, forming a real fortress. 

" Be careful ! " the Prophet cried to them. " God 
can send down upon you the same disasters as befell 
the Qoraishites. Become Mussulmans. You know 
that I am God's Messenger. You will find it written 
in your Scriptures. You must pay God generously." 

" God must be poor indeed ! " replied the Jews. 
" You are merely hunting an excuse for breaking 
your treaty with us. We do not like fighting. But 
do not be so sure, O Abulqasim, that because you 
have beaten your fellow-citizens easily, who are not 
in the habit of fighting, that the case would be the 
same with us." 

They were then besieged for fifteen days during 
which time no help came to them, neither from the 
other Jewish tribes nor from their Arabian allies. 
They surrendered unconditionally and Mahomet, 
wishing to make an example of them, ordered that 
their hands be tied behind their backs and their heads 



cut off. The Banu Qai'noqa had as allies the powerful 
Arabian tribes of the Khazraj, whose chief, 'Abdallah 
ben Obayy, succeeded, but not without much difficulty, 
in obtaining their grace. 

Their lives were saved but they were obliged to 
exile themselves, going into Syria, leaving behind them 
their slaves, their lands and their outstanding debts, 
all of which were divided amongst the victors. 
Loading all they could upon their beasts, the Banu 
Qai'noqa pushed northward, the men on foot, the 
women mounted on camels a melancholy procession. 

Ka'b ben el Ashraf was a rich Jew of Medina. 
He was a learned man, a rabbi, and a much esteemed 
poet in the Arabian tongue. Being a friend of the 
Qoraishites, he composed verses about the slain of 
Badr and then went to Mecca to recite his poems in 
order to arouse the populace. Life to him was no 
longer worth while, he said, after the disaster to the 
noblest Arabs, unless Mecca avenged herself. The 
Moslem poets having retorted, Ka'b returned to 
Medina and tried to incite the people to rebellion 
against the Prophet. To this end he wrote many 
biting satires. 

"Who will deliver me of Ibn el Ashraf?" said 
Mahomet one day, growing impatient. 

" Do you want me to kill him ? " asked the Ansari^ 
Mohammed ben Maslama. 


It you can. . . . 

Ka'b ben el Ashraf lived in a strong castle on the 
outskirts of Medina. It was not easy to penetrate. 
So the murderer resorted to trickery. Three other 
Mussulmans entered into the plot and they acquired 
as an accomplice the services of Silkan Abu Naila, 
Ka'b's foster-brother. 

Abu Nai'la called on the Jewish poet one evening 



and spoke to him for a whole hour, by the light of the 
moon, of many indifferent things ; they recited 
verse, they joked. Finally, touching him on the 
shoulder, Abu Naila said : 

" Ka'b, I really came to see you about something 
serious. May I speak to you and rely absolutely on 
your discretion ?" 

" Speak," was the reply. 

" Very well. The arrival of that man (Mahomet) 
is a disaster. He has involved us with all the Arabs 
and our caravan routes have been cut off. He has 
divided our families and troubled our souls." 

" I am Ibn el Ashraf ! By God 1 Did I not warn 
you that things would come to this pass ? " 

" I have friends who have the same ideas on this 
subject as I. What we need is a way of ridding our 
city of this man. But in the meantime our stores 
of wheat are low. Could you supply us with wheat 
against solid security ? 

" What security ? Would you offer your children 
as a guarantee ? " 

44 That would be ignominous. We can give you 
very valuable armour as security. I shall fetch it 
and the bargain will be made." 

Abu Naila then joined the conspirators who took 
the armour and went with him to the kasba of the 
Jew. Mahomet accompanied them for a time, then 
left them saying : 

44 May Allah aid you ! " 

Ever and ever more brilliant, the moon rose in the 
heavens. The shadow of the castle lengthened 
black against the silver ground. Abu Naila called 
Ka'b from the foot of the ramparts. 

The poet had very recently married a charming 
young woman. 



" Do not go out at this hour," she said to him. 

" Why not ? " 

" I beg of you, do not go out. It is midnight. 
You are a warrior and you have enemies." 

" But it is Abu Nai'la, almost my brother, who is 

" Ya Ka'b ! Ya Ka'b ! " Silkan was calling. 

" Do you not hear his voice ? What can I fear 
from him ? " And Ibn el Ashraf smiled at her fears 
because he saw in them a proof of her love, left his 
wife and joined the five men in the night. They 
walked about for a while, talking. 

" If we were to go to the Hill of the Old 
Woman ? . . . " one of them ventured. 

" Yes, if you like," said Ka'b. 

The poet's hair had just been perfumed by his wife. 
" I have the most perfumed, the most perfect wife in 
the whole of Arabia," he declared all aglow. 

" Allow me to inhale the perfume of your hair," 
said Abu Nai'la as he touched Ka'b's hair and then 
sniffed his hand. " Truly, I have never smelled any- 
thing so fragrant." 

They walked on slowly in the soft night air. Again 
Silkan inhaled the perfume with which Ka'b's hair 
was anointed and praised the elegance of the new 
husband. A third time he touched the head of the 
Jew with his hand, but this time he pulled fiercely 
at his hair, and cried aloud : 

" Strike this enemy of Allah with all your might 1 " 

The Mussulmans unsheathed their swords, but 
their weapons crossed in the darkness and they only 
succeeded in wounding one of their own company. 
Ka'b let out a terrible cry ; Ibn Maslama had 
stabbed him in the heart with a dagger. 

Ka'b's cry of terror had awakened the people in 



the neighbourhood, who came out of their tents while 
lights began to flicker along the ramparts of the castle 
tower. The murderers fled, trying to support their 
wounded comrade. Without being seen, they had to 
pass through the territory of several Jewish and 
Arabian tribes. The wounded man held them back. 
All the neighbourhood was in a state of excitement. 
They dropped their wounded comrade and ran to hide. 
At the end of an hour he joined them without having 
been seen. Then they carried him, and reached 
Mahomet's house at dawn, to find him praying. He 
listened to their adventure. 

Another well-known and wealthy Jew, Abu Rafi', 
nicknamed the " Merchant of the Hijaz, ", lived in 
a castle near Khai'bar. He incited the Jews of that 
city and the tribe of Ghatafan against the Mussulmans. 
At the instigation of Mahomet five men of Khazraj, 
led by 'Abdallah ben 'Atiq, disguised themselves and 
went to Khai'bar. The Prophet had requested them to 
kill no women or children. When they reached the 
castle, 'Abdallah said to his companions : 

" Wait here for me." 

The door of the castle had not yet been closed, 
although night had come ; for the castle attendants 
were searching for a strayed donkey in the open with 
torches. 'Abdallah approached and pretended to be 
engaged in answering a call of nature. 

" Those who want to enter must do so at once," called 
the gatekeeper, " for I am about to close the gates." 

'Abdallah entered with the others and hid himself 
in a barn while the people in the castle dined. When 
they had all gone to bed he took the key of the entrance 
gate from its hiding-place in the dormer-window so 
as to be able to get out. Then he passed through 
several rooms to the bed-chamber. 



The mailer of the cattle had dined well and lay 
sleeping beside his wife. The darkness was 

r < O Abu Rafi' ! " called 'Abdallah. 

" Who is there ? " 

'Abdallah hurled his lance in the direction of the 
voice but missed his aim. The thick woollen garment 
that Abu Ran*' wore protected him. The woman 
thought she recognized the voice of 'Abdallah. 

" It is not possible," said her husband. " 'Abdallah 
is far from here." 

" O Abu Rafi', what is that voice we hear and what 
does that cry mean ? " said 'Abdallah, changing his 
tone of voice. 

" May the devil take you ! " Abu Rafi' cried to 
his wife. " There is a man in this room with us who 
wanted to strike me with his sword." 

Ibn 'Atiq went forward and struck again in the dark- 
ness. He jumped back and it was then that he fell 
against Abu Rafi' lying on his mattress. He thrust 
his sword into his belly till he heard the bones crack. 
Then he left the room, heeding the Prophet's order 
not to kill women, and while the wife moaned and 
cried for help the murderer took to his heels. But 
how escape from an Arabian castle, which is a labyrinth 
of rooms, staircases and courtyards ? Abu RaiT's 
people were now moving about. They seemed to 
come from everywhere, to bump into each other, to 
cry aloud and light torches. The animals, herded 
together in the enclosure for the night, began to bleat 
and whinney. 'Abdallah broke a leg in running down 
the stairs, but he bound his knee with the stuff of 
his turban and succeeded in escaping without being 

In order to be certain that his victim had indeed 



succumbed, 'Abdallah sat near the door waiting for 
dawn to come. Then someone came out and called 
from the highest point of the outer wall : 

" I announce the death of Abu Ran" ', the Merchant 
of the Hijaz 1 " 'Abdallah then joined his comrades. 

" Let us run," said he. " -God has slain Abu 

We should much prefer not to have to record such 
tales as these in the story of a man who had so often 
shown such greatness and nobility of soul. From the 
ordinary point of view Mahomet may be excused by 
saying that he was a product of his time and country ; 
but we cannot help wishing that the Prophet of Allah, 
the regenerator of his race, had been purer, more 
superhuman. We cannot but regret these deep 
shadows in an otherwise radiant picture. 

While Mahomet was exceptionally severe with the 
Jews, it must be remembered that they had betrayed 
him and the anarchical state of Arabia must not be 
forgotten ; after such incidents it is difficult to see 
in him a perfect ideal in all things. 1 The Mussulmans 
were given to identifying their interests with God's 
to such an extent that not the slightest scruple seems 
to have entered their minds. Ka'b ben Malik and 
Hassan ben Thabit wrote poems in honour of the 
murderers of Ibn el Ashraf. A miniature war, or rather 
a series of individual skirmishes, followed the 
assassination. A Mussulman having killed a Jew, 
his benefactor, was reproached by his pagan brother 
for his ingratitude : 

" The food that he gave you is still in your stomach," 
he said. 

1 As certain modern apologias wish to claim. Cf. Islamic Review, 
1917 : The Jewish prophet Elijah had four hundred and fifty priests 
of Baal massacred in a single day. 



" By Allah ! " was the reply, " If he who ordered 
me to kill him commanded me to do the same to you, 
my brother, I would do so at once." 

A Strange justification indeed ! Very much im- 
pressed by such enthusiasm, the pagan brother at 
once became a Mussulman. 

The Jews were terrorized and at once signed an 
agreement with Mahomet promising not to attack 
him. It was not until after Ohod that they dared to 
raise their heads again. The Prophet gave up his 
Jewish secretaries, after which he had recourse chiefly 
to the services of Zaid ben Thabit,whom he ordered 
to learn the language of the people of Aram. 

The qibla, or direction of prayer, was no longer 
Jerusalem but the Ka'ba of Mecca, the oratory of 
Abraham, the common ancestor of Jews, Christians 
and Mussulmans, to whom Mahomet traced the 
foundations of his teachings. 



"War has its ups and downs" 

(Abu Sofyan, on the eve of the 

A T the beginning of the month of Shawwal in the 
-*"* third year of the Hegira, Mahomet, who had 
gone to Quba, about an hour from Medina, saw an 
Arab coming towards him on an exhausted camel. The 
Arab asked for a secret interview. 

" O Abu'lqasim," he said, " I have come from 
Mecca in five days to bring you important news. The 
brother of your father, El 'Abbas ben ' Abdelmottalib, 
who wishes you well, sent me to tell you that the 
Qoraishites are resolved to have done with you and 
avenge the dead of Badr. They will no longer bear 
with either the humiliation you have inflicted 
upon them or the damage done to their commerce 
by the destruction of the caravan-route to the country 
of the Rum. All their able-bodied men are armed. 
They have called upon the Banu Kinana and upon their 
allies of Tihama for aid. They have mobilized their 
Ahabish. Within a few days three thousand warriors, 
two hundred of whom have swift mounts and seven 
hundred of whom have coats of armour of either steel 
or leopard-skin, will fall upon Medina. Abu Sofyan 
himself is in command of this powerful army and 
'Ikrima, who lives only to avenge his father, Abu 
Jahl, and the unconquerable Khalid ben el Walid 
are his chief captains." 



The scheming old El 'Abbas was indeed playing a 
double r6le. He had no enthusiasm for Islam, and 
once his ransom had been paid he hastened back to 
Mecca and his business affairs. But he wanted to 
prepare a way out for himself in case of need and to 
that end he curried favour with his nephew. 

Mahomet hastily returned to Medina and called 
together the principal citizens. What ought they to 
do ? The Prophet was of the opinion that it would be 
better to entrench themselves in the city. The older men 
approved of this plan, but the younger ones, enflamed 
with the memory of Badr, wanted to go before the 
enemy and give battle. The majority were of this 
opinion and Mahomet, as was usual when he did not 
have a revelation on a particular subject, agreed. 
He sent out heralds to call all to arms and then went 
home to his afternoon prayers with 'Omar and Abu 
Bakr, who dressed him in his double cuirass and wound 
his turban about his helmet. The banner, knotted 
to the standard, was set up to assemble the men. 
When Mahomet, fully armed, with lance in hand, 
sword at his side and shield hanging from his shoulder, 
reviewed his army, there were but a thousand men, 
only two hundred of whom had cuirasses, and only 
two horses. Even the most enthusiastic lost heart 
at the sight and began to talk of awaiting the attack 
within the shelter of the walls. 

"No ! " declared Mahomet, " it would not be 
seemly for a Prophet to put his sword back into its 
scabbard once he has drawn it out." 

He gave the standard of the Mohajirun to 'AH, 
that of the Khazraj to Habbab and that of the Aws 
to Sa'd. The army advanced. They camped at a 
short distance from the city. At dawn on the following 
day they advanced again and said their morning prayers 



at Anjar. In reviewing his troops Mahomet noticed 
several Jews amongst the ranks of the Khazraj, their 
allies. Mahomet would not permit them to remain 
if they refused to become Mussulmans. They refused 
and departed. 'Abdallah ben Obayy, the 
" hypocrite ", chief of the Khazraj, grew angry, 
and left with three hundred men. The army, now 
reduced to seven hundred men, advanced to Mt. Ohod 
after having killed another " hypocrite " who was 
working in a field and who had insulted the Prophet. 

Six miles from the city Mt. Ohod rose steeply. 
The Mussulmans turned their backs to the mountain 
and faced Medina. Mahomet placed fifty archers 
in a gorge with orders not to move under any pretext. 
This was to prevent a surprise attack from behind. 

Upon Mahomet's sword was inscribed: 
" Cowardice does not save one from fate." Not having 
the intention of taking an active part in the battle, 
Mahomet gave his sword to the Ansari^ Abu Dujana, 
who swore to use it until it bent. This man, wearing 
a red turban to indicate that he meant to fight till the 
bitter end, began to strut about so pompously that 
Mahomet said : 

" Ah, this is a thing which would displease God 
under any other circumstance." 

The Qoraishites arrived ; they placed themselves 
in such a way that one section of them stood between 
the Mussulmans and Medina. They had brought 
with them an idol in a qubba^ carried on the back of 
a camel. Fifteen women gathered about this altar 
striking the defs and singing savage chants to 
encourage the warriors. The most celebrated amongst 
them was the beautiful and passionate Hind, the wife 
of Abu Sofyan, enraged because of the death of her 
father, 'Otba, and her brother. 



We are the daughters of the morning 

We walk upon delicate carpets, 

Pearls adorn our throats and our hair is perfumed with rnusk. 

If you fight bravely we shall embrace you, 

But if you turn your backs, we shall thrusT: you from us shamefully ! " 

Thus sang the Qoraishite women to the advance 
guard of the army. And they cried to the men : 

" Forward ! Strike firmly and spare no one ! 
May your steel cut deep and your hearts remain 
inflexible ! " 

The Arabian warrior, as we have already said, is 
as careful as possible not to be killed. He considers 
war a profitable ruse and not a stupid massacre. On 
great occasions women were taken to the field of 
battle, for their songs and their shouts inspired the 
men with courage. Their presence was a sign that the 
men would fight to the very end. 

Advancing from between the ranks of the 
Qoraishites came Abu 'Amir, former chief of the Aws 
Allah, a branch of the Aws, and a native of Medina, 
who had left his own city out of hatred for Mahomet. 
He was a sort of ascetic and had preached a religion 
half pagan, half Jewish, which had been eclipsed by 
Islam. He cried to those of his tribe amongst the 
ranks of the Mussulman army to come and join 
him. His appeal met with no success. He began to 
shoot his bow and, at the same time, the Qoraishite 
slaves hurled stones at the first rows of the Moslem 
army, and the horsemen of the left wing, led by 'Ikrima, 
tried to attack the flank of the army of Medina. The 
attack failing, Hamza, Mahomet's uncle, let out his 
great battle-cry : " Death ! Death ! " and charged 
the centre of the Qoraishite army. 

The rush of the Mussulmans was irresistible. They 
made a great gap in the pagan army. Abu Dujana, 



who held the Prophet's sword, found himself on the 
other side facing the Qoraishite women, who sought 
refuge on the hillside, expecting to be killed or taken 
prisoner. The warrior had already raised his arm above 
their heads, but decided that he could not soil the 
Prophet's sword with the blood of women. The 
idol had fallen from its palanquin. The Qoraishites 
had already entrenched themselves behind their 
three hundred baggage camels. 

But the Mussulman archers, thinking victory at 
hand and forgetting Mahomet's order, came forth 
from their gorge and rushed into the fray, crying : 
" Booty ! Booty ! " 

But Khalid ben el Walid, understanding the situa- 
tion, at once called together the horsemen of the right 
wing of the Meccan army and took possession of 
the abandoned post, and across the hill shot at the 
Mussulmans from the rear. Then an indescribable 
confusion spread throughout the Moslem army ; 
they attacked one another. Hodhai'fa saw his father 
El Yaman killed under his very eyes by error. The 
standard-bearer of the Qoraishites defied the 
Mussulmans with : 

" You claim that your dead are in paradise. By 
El Lat ! you lie ... If you really believed that, 
several of you would come forth to fight me ! " 

'AH heard him, threw himself at the foe ; felled 
him. But he did not deal the final blow for, in falling, 
the Qoraishite exposed the secret parts of his body 
and the modest young man turned his head away. 

A Qoraishite woman, 'Amra bint 'Alkama el 
Harithia, took the flag from the hands of the fallen / 
standard-bearer. Sawab, a young Abyssinian slave, 
then bore the banner. Sa'd ben Abi Waqqas cut off 
his right hand. He seized it with his left, but that in 



its turn was likewise cut off. He then gripped the 
standard under his arm. Literally hacked into 
morsels, he threw himself upon the banner to cover 
it, crying : " Have I done my duty ? " and so 


The poet of Medina, Hassan ben Thabit, jeered 
at the Qorashites, whose honour had been defended 
by a woman and by a negro, without whom " they would 
have been sold in the market-place like any foreign 
merchandise ". 

Munafi ben Talha, who had recaptured the ancient 
banner of old Qusay, fell pierced by an arrow. (His 
mother swore to drink from the skull of her son's 
murderer and promised a hundred camels to anyone ' 
who would bring it to her.) His brothers Harith 
and Kelab succeeded him, then four other Qoraishite 
nobles, but all were killed. 

The Prophet stood beside Sa'd ben Abi Waqqas, 
a skilful archer. Mahomet handed him the arrows 
and praised his skill. The Mussulman women 
dashed about the field of battle carrying water-jugs 
to the warriors and the wounded on their backs, their ~ 
skirts tucked up so that the bangles on their legs 
showed flashing. Omm Ai'man, a woman-servant of 
Mahomet's, had her dress pierced by an arrow and fell 
over in fright, her legs in the air. Annoyed, Mahomet 
handed an arrow without a point to Sa'd, and Sa'd 
repeated the trick on the enemy. Mahomet laughed. 

Several Mussulmans had drunk wine (complete 
prohibition not having yet been proclaimed) to give 
themselves courage. Others were drunk with religious 
fervour or the ardour of the battle. Two old men, 
unknown to the others, joined the combatants so as 
to earn a martyr's palm. They threw themselves into 
the thickest of the battle and were killed, one by the 

225- Q 


enemy and the other by the Mussulmans who did 
not recognize him. 

Anas ben en Nadhr, who had not participated in 
the battle of Badr and wanted to make up for it, said 
to some Mussulmans who were fleeing : 

" Where are you going ? It is here that you will 
breathe the perfume of paradise." His body was later 
found torn by eighty wounds, and so mutilated that his 
sister was able to recognize him only by a beauty 
spot and the tips of his fingers. 

The situation became acute and the Mussulmans 
were at a disadvantage because of numbers. 'Othman, 
and perhaps Abu Bakr and 'Omar themselves, turned 
tail and ran without slopping until they reached 
Medina, where they spread consternation. There 
remained only a dozen men around the Prophet to 
protect him. A wom^n, Nasiba bint Ka'b, who had 
dropped her water-jug to fight near the Prophet with 
her husband and her sons, seized the shield of a fugitive 
and defended the ground step by step, although she 
was wounded thirteen times. Her son was struck 
bv her side. She bound his wound and sent him back 


to fight. 

But there were others who showed a less religious 

A man of Medina, who had remained in the city 
and joined the army later only to escape the sarcasm of 
the women, fought courageously and, when they 
complimented him on his spirit of martyrdom^ said 
frankly : 

"It is for no religion that I have fought only to 
keep the people of Mecca from touching the date- 
trees of Medina." And not having the courage to 
endure the frightful pain from his wounds he stabbed 
himself with his own sword, which inspired the Prophet 



to say that one must wait until the very end before 
judging people by their acts. 

Half a century later, two men passed through 
Horns in Syria. "It is here," they said, "that 
Wahshi (the savage) lives. Let us make him relate 
how he killed Hamza, Mahomet's uncle, at the battle 
of Ohod." 

They asked where he lived. 

" He is a man who has been conquered by wine," 
was the reply. " You will see him sitting in his 
doorway. If he has been drinking you will get nothing 
out of him ; but if he is sober he will talk as much as 
you like." 

At the indicated house the two travellers found an 
old negro, bent but still very tall, with white hair, 
drawn features and wrinkled face. He had an expres- 
sion like that of an old eagle sharp but weary. He 
raised his head at their greeting. 

" Are you not 'Obai'dallah ben 'Adi ? " he asked 
one of the travellers. " I held you in my arms when 
you were a babe at the breast and I recognize you by 
the shape of your heel." 

"It is indeed I. We have come to hear you tell 
us how you killed Hamza ben 'Abdelmottalib." 

" I shall tell you the story as I used to tell it to 
the Prophet himself. I was then the slave of Jubai'r 
ben Mut'im, whose uncle had been killed by Hamza. 
He promised to free me if I killed Hamza. During 
the whole of the battle of Ohod, I was only interested 
in killing Hamza. When I saw him, he was being 
challenged by Siba', whose mother circumcises the 
women of Mecca. 

" 'O Siba*,' he cried to him, 'O son of Omm 
Anmar, circumcisor of women, do you still remain 



unfaithful to God and his Prophet ? ' And he killed 
him with a single blow of his sabre. I was in ambush 
behind a stone with my javelin in my hand. Just 
as he bent over to cut off the head of Siba', I threw 
my javelin ; I seldom miss my aim. It struck him 
in the crotch and the tip came out at the back between 
his buttocks. He staggered and fell. I pulled out 
my javelin and left. After the taking of Mecca I 
was converted to Islam and took part in the holy 
war ; I tried to be forgiven for the murder of Hamza 
by killing Musai'lima, the impostor, at the battle of 

The Qoraishites tried now to kill Mahomet himself. 
Mus'ab ben Omai'r, who was Mahomet's personal 
standard-bearer, was killed before his eves. As he 

* ^ 

closely resembled Mahomet, the enemy thought that 
they had indeed killed the Prophet and started to 
shout the news, which threw complete disorder into 
the Mussulman ranks. Malik ben El Aswam, while 
in flight, passed near Kharja, who lay dying of ten 
wounds, announcing the news. 

" Even though Mahomet be dead," said the dying 
man, " God, the Highest, the most Glorious, lives 
always. Return to the fight in Allah's name." 

Four pagans were hurling stones at the little group 
surrounding the Prophet. One of the stones struck 
the Prophet in the face with such force that he fell 
backward. His lip had been cut open by the stone. 
Wiping the blood away with his mantle and sighing, 
he said : 

" Can it be that there are people so savage as to 
demand the blood of the Prophet who calls them to 
God ? " An arrow-head struck him in the cheek ; 
the pain was intense. Retreating with those about 
him and encumbered with the weight of the heavy 



armour which had saved him from death, Mahomet 
fell into a ditch. Talha jumped into the ditch and 
lifted the Prophet upon his shoulder, while 'Ali 
pulled him by the arms. Retreating and fighting 
at the same time, they finally gained the summit of 
a mountain-pass where many of the others had sought 
refuge. Abu Dujana bent over the Prophet, serving 
as a living shield, while Abu 'Obai'da bound his 
wounds. The chin-straps of his helmet had entered 
into the flesh and they had much difficulty in releasing 
them from the torn skin. When Abu 'Obai'da finally 
pulled them out two teeth dropped from Mahomet's 
jaw. Malik ben Sina'n sucked the blood that flowed, 
and Fatima, shortly after, washed her father's jaw 
with water that 'AH fetched in his shield. To slop 
the flow of blood and close the wound, Fatima burnt 
a mat and daubed the wound with the ashes. 

A Qoraishite horseman, Ibn Khalaf, passing there 
and seeing the Prophet still alive, threw himself 
upon him ; but the Prophet seized a lance and pierced 
him through. 

The fight was over and the Qoraishites were 
masters of the field, but instead of taking advantage 
of the situation, they preferred to gratify their hatred 
by pillaging the dead bodies and burying their own 
dead, of which there were one third as many as those 
of the enemy. The women came to insult the dead 
Mussulmans. They cut off their noses and ears to 
make necklaces, bracelets and belts. Hind, in 
ferocious exultation, cut open Hamza's body and tore 
out his liver, which she bit into shreds with her 
handsome teeth. 

Abu Sofyan ran about the battle-field hoping to 
find Mahomet's body ; he recognized that of his 
own son, Handhala, killed amongst the ranks of the 



Mussulmans. He then advanced towards the summit 
where the Prophet stood with his twelve faithful 

" Is Mahomet with you ? " he cried. 

Mahomet forbade them to answer. 

" And Abu Bakr, is he there ? And 'Omar ? " 

The Mussulmans did not speak. 

" Then they are dead," said Abu Sofyan. 

" You lie ! " called out one of the Prophet's 
companions, who could no longer contain himself. 

" In any case, the victory is ours," replied the 

" To us alone, insh 1 Allah" 

" All days are not alike. To-day makes up for 
Badr. War has its ups and downs. You will find 
the bodies of your dead mutilated. I did not order 
that. So much the worse. ... I invite you to meet 
me again next year at the well of Badr so that we may 
measure our strength again." And the Qoraishites 
began to intone a chant composed in the rajaz metre : 

" Be praised, O Hobal, be praised. Thy religion 
has triumphed." 

" God is the greatest and most magnificent," 
answered the Mahometans. 

" We have El 'Ozza and you have not El 'Ozza," 
continued Abu Sofyan. 

And the Prophet said to his people : 

" Have you no answer to that ? " 

" What shall we say, O Messenger of God ? " 

" Say : ' God is our protector and you have no 
protector '." 

The Qoraishites departed without pursuing the 
routed army and the Mussulmans returned to the 
field of battle. Upon seeing the mutilated body of 
his uncle, Mahomet, in a moment of rage, swore to 



do as much to the body of seventy pagans. But an 
angel brought him the following revelation : 

" You may inflitt reprisals but you would do better 
to be patient " 

" I shall therefore exercise patience," said Mahomet, 
giving up the idea of vengeance, and he was consoled 
upon learning from the Angel Gabriel that Hamza 
had been admitted into the Seventh Heaven with the 
glorious title of " Lion of Allah and of his 
Prophet ". 

They buried the dead two by two (there were 
about seventy of them) at the place where they had 
submitted to their martyrdom. 

" Allahu akbar, God is greatest," said Mahomet 
over their bodies, and he promised to be their witness 
on the Day of Judgment. 

He forbade them to wash the bodies, for martyrs 
must appear before God with their wounds perfumed 
and bright with vermilion blood. He permitted them 
to weep for the dead, for tears soothe the heart, but 
he forbade them to tear their hair, cut their cheeks, 
rend their garments or give themselves over to any 
theatrical manifestations of grief. 

What remained of the Mussulman army was worn 
with fatigue, and prayed that night seated. The 
night was one of anxiety for, apart from the pain 
of defeat, there was the uncertainty of what the victor 
might do. The next day Mahomet manoeuvred in 
the direction of Medina. Abu Sofyan did not dare 
to attack him, fearing that he might receive reinforce- 
ments from the city and therefore took the road to 
Mecca ; but on the next day, a Monday, he halted, 
changed his mind and decided to return to annihilate 
his enemies. But Mahomet was decisive. In spite 
of his wounds and the minority of his troops, he 



pursued the Qoraishites to Hamra El Asad, where 
he remained for four days facing the enemy, lighting 
fires at night to signify that he did not mean to give 
up the struggle. The enemy again took the road to 
Mecca. Mahomet and his army returned to Medina, 
where a difficult situation had arisen. 

His enemies had raised their heads. Jews and 
" hypocrites " laughingly declared that defeat had 
weakened his mission. Badr had been considered as 
a proof of Mahomet's divine mission ; by the same 
lights Ohod showed that Mahomet was only an 
ordinary general and not a Prophet. 'Abdallah ben 
Obayy was so biting that the faithful chased him 
from the mosque and Mahomet had to use his influence 
to prevent violence being used on him. The Koran 
declares that fortune varies in order that God may 
recognize the pure ; that the Mussulmans were 
humbled as a punishment for having sometimes 
preferred the goods of this world to future rewards. 
It was their disobedience towards the Prophet and 
their love of booty that had been the cause of their 
defeat. It was in God alone that they should have 
had faith ; not in themselves. 

Mahomet, who had shown audacity and decision 
the day after his defeat by pursuing the enemy army, 
doubled his activities after Ohod. He determined to 
keep a firm hold on Medina and to see that his troops 
were in training. He organized a body of cavalry, 
established breeding-stables and even forbade mules 
to be bred in order to have more horses. 

Abu Barra', the chief of the Banu 'Amir, made 
advances to Mahomet. He alternated flattery and 
presents with disguised menaces. He wanted an 
alliance that would assure him the domination of the 
region of Nejd. A number of Moslem horsemen went 



into Nejd where the " native politics " were extremely 
complicated. Abu Barra's r6le in the affair is not 
very clear. He gave them a safe conduct and perhaps 
wanted to make use of them against his rival, Ibn 
To fail, chief of the Banu Solaim. But the fact is 
that the latter, with a single stroke of his lance, killed 
the leader of the Mussulman expedition and then 
tried to incite the Banu 'Amir to massacre the others. 
But the Banu 'Amir refused to perform this act of 
treason, whereupon the Banu Solaim fell upon the 
Mussulmans, who were gathered at the well of Bir 
Ma'una and massacred all of them but a cripple who, 
at the moment of the attack, was looking after the 
camels and so was able to fly to the mountains. 

This incident was a disaster not only because of 
the numbers of the dead (more than at the 
battle of Badr and almost as many as at Ohod), 
but because of the blow it dealt to Mahomet's 
prestige amongst the Bedouin tribes. Mahomet 
was overcome with grief, hurled imprecations at 
the traitors and went into pious retreat for a month. 

After this catastrophe came another. Two Mussul- 
mans, while passing Bir Ma'una, saw the vultures 
flying over their dead and vowed vengeance. One of 
them killed two Jews, mistaking them for enemies ; 
Mahomet was obliged to pay blood-money. 

In the course of negotiations on this subject with 
the Banu Nadhir of Medina, Mahomet thought that 
they were meditating some sort of treason. They 
had already plotted against him and Mahomet had 
long since decided to expel them from Medina, but 
the battle of Ohod had retarded the matter. 

Suddenly leaving the meeting, he returned to his 
house and armed his people. Then he sent the Banu 
Nadhir an order to leave the country within ten days. 



The Jews hesitated ; then encouraged by 'Abdalah 
ben Obayy, the " hypocrite ", they refused. 
Mahomet besieged them in their kasha three 
leagues from Medina and burned their palm-groves. 
The Banu Nadhir waited in vain for the promised 
aid of Ibn Obayy and were obliged to surrender after 
six days. They were allowed to leave, taking with 
them all they could load on the backs of their camels. 
Their other possessions and their arms were con- 
fiscated. As the booty had not been taken by force 
after a combat the Koran decided that it belonged to 
the Prophet, who divided it amongst the Mohajirun, 
emigrated from Mecca so that they would no longer 
have to live on the charity of the people of Medina. 

With their women and children and even parts of 
their dwellings loaded on six hundred camels, the 
Banu Nadhir took the route going north. In their 
yellow robes loaded down with trimmings, the young 
girls followed the caravan dancing and singing, 
playing the flute and the tambourine to show that 
they were not sorry to leave the country. Thus the 
procession passed through the market-place of Medina. 
Some of them went as far as Syria, while others stopped 
at Khai'bar, a large oasis populated by Jews about 
half the distance. 

Mahomet did not forget either the affair of 'Asim 
ben Thabit nor that of Bir Ma'una. He wanted to 
give the Bedouins a lesson and the Koran denounced 
their native tendency to treachery and pillage. He 
left Medina suddenly and went into Nejd by forced 
marches. The heat was stifling. They took turns 
riding the camels and those walking bound their 
feet with rags so as to keep them from being burned 
by the scorching sand and cut by the jagged stones. 
Abu Musa's feet were so injured that the nails dropped 

2 34 


off. Five times daily the little army topped to pray. 
When they arrived in the danger zone Mahomet 
instituted the " danger prayer " : the company in 
turn placed itself behind the Prophet and prayed in 
the direction of Mecca, bowing but once, while the 
others faced the enemy (present or potential). Some- 
times they prayed on horseback. The sky was the 
immeasurable dome of the earth which these primitive 
and simple men wished to turn into the temple of 
God. They rendered homage to him with death 
threatening them, so transfigured were they by the 
faith of their chief, who was so ardent, that even in 
this small, deserted corner of the world, between two 
ridiculous skirmishes, between two exhausting 
marches or two raids, he was preparing to change the 
face of the world. 

Thanks to the speed with which they had come, 
the Mussulmans fell upon a party of Banu Ghatafan, 
who fled to the mountains, leaving behind them their 
baggage and some captives. 

While returning to Medina, Mahomet fell asleep 
one hot day under a mimosa tree. He had hung his 
sabre on the tree. It was a beautiful Syrian weapon 
with a hilt of engraved silver. Suddenly he. awoke 
and saw before him a stranger brandishing his sword 
and crying : 

" Who will protect you now against me ? " 

" God," replied Mahomet coolly, looking him full 
in the face. 

Very much impressed the Bedouin let the weapon 
fall. Mahomet picked it up and threatened the man, 
saying : 

" And who will save you now ? " 

" Alas ! No one," groaned the Bedouin. 

" Very well, learn pity from my God. . . ." 

2 35 


There ^oere the faithful tried, 
and made to tremble with a violent 
trembling. . . . God hath driven 
back the infidels in their wrath : 
they obtained no advantage . . . 
Koran, xxxiii. 

A FTER the battle of Ohod, Abu Sofyan, singing 
*-* his song of triumph, invited Mahomet to meet 
him at the market place of Badr the following year 
(according to the tacit agreement between the Mussul- 
mans and the Qoraishites). The date of the meeting 
approached ; Mahomet departed with fifteen hundred 
men, but the enemy was not at the appointed place ; 
a famine in Mecca had prevented the idolaters from 
coming. The Mussulmans, however, contented them- 
selves with doing business at the suq for they had been 
farseeing enough to bring certain merchandise with 
them . . . 

But the war soon recommenced. The Qorashites 
allied themselves to the Jews and the Bedouins, and 
their formidable coalition was preparing to deal a 
decisive blow to Islam. The Banu Nadhir who had 
taken refuge at Khai'bar incited their hosts against 
the new power that had risen threatening all anarchistic 
Arabia ; they represented Mahomet as a tyrant 
waiting to put all the tribes into chains. The Bedouins 
of Tihama and of Nejd joined the Qoraishites in a 



body and the confederation had spies in the very heart 
of Medina amongst the Jews of the Banu Qora'idha 
who desired, almost openly, the ruin of their 
burdensome ally. 

In the month of Shawwal of the fifth year of the 
Hegira, the allies, numbering ten thousand, marched 
against Medina, where there were but three thousand 
men to oppose them. Never before in the Hijaz 
had there been seen such a large army. 

To advance against such a force would have meant 
to risk another Ohod. Mahomet did not wish to 
fight in a large, open, flat space because of the superior 
numbers of his enemy who, in addition, counted 
on the help of some of the inhabitants of Medina : 
the Jews and the " hypocrites ". Medina was pre- 
pared for a state of siege and the women and children 
had been placed in the fortified sections. Selman the 
Persian suggested their digging around the city an 
enormous ditch which would paralyse the advance of 
their assailants. The idea was altogether a new one 
in Arabia and caused much astonishment. But with 
tactical genius Mahomet at once appreciated the value 
of a project which permitted the effective defence of 
a city composed of separate quarters. He had to 
employ all his influence to have them accept this 
strange system of fighting and to persuade the Mussul- 
mans to undertake the humiliating toil of digging out 
the earth. He himself set the example. 

On an icy winter morning, the digging was begun. 
Mahomet, half naked, transported the rubble on his 
back. On his white chest, now smeared with earth, 
could be seen a thin line of hairs, as if drawn with a 
reed, from his throat to his navel, And as he worked 
he sang in rajaz metre the verses of 'Abdallah ben 
Raw aha : "By Allah ! without Allah we would never 

2 37 


have found the right road : we would have known 
neither charity nor prayer. Let peace descend upon 
us and strengthen our footsteps should we meet the 
enemy. Surely, if those who attack us want us to 
revolt we shall refuse." And he raised his voice : 

" We shall refuse ! We shall refuse ! " 

His example persuaded the others. When he passed 
with a heavy basket of earth on his shoulder the 
disciples, suffering from hunger and fatigue, cheered 
him, crying : 

" We have sworn fidelity to you and to Islam, O 
Mahomet, as long as life remains in us ! " 

" O, my God ! " said he, " Bless the Ansar and the 
Mohajirun ! The only good is in the life to come." 

He made every effort to keep up their courage, 
turning their miseries into jokes. When Jabir brought 
some barley which was being cooked in some rancid 
fat that gave off an unpleasant smoke, Mahomet 
called out : 

" Oh ! There, you of the ditch ! Here is Jabir 
inviting you to a feast. Come quickly." 

The enemy approached. Even the most faithful 
trembled, their hearts in their mouths. They asked 
themselves where God's aid was. And the 
" hypocrites " protested : 

" Mahomet promised us the treasures of Caesar 
and of Chosroes," said one of them, "and look at us ; 
we cannot even go out to perform our needs without 
risking our lives.'" 

Several of them left the army under the pretext 
of having to defend their houses in the surrounding 
districts. Although they had promised to fight with 
him, Mahomet let them go ; for he knew well that 
some of them were only waiting for an occasion to turn 
against him or to provoke disturbances in the city. 



He likewise knew that those who showed so little 
ardour for the battle and wanted so much to betray 
him would be the mosl: exacting when it came to the 
sharing of the spoils. (Koran, xxxiii, 19.) 

The trench had scarcely been finished when 
the enemy appeared. Mahomet placed his three 
thousand men behind the trench, having left 
Medina in command of the blind but faithful 
Ibn Omm Maktum. 

Abu Sofyan and his men advanced but slopped, 
disconcerted, before the ditch and the hail of arrows 
with which the Mussulmans greeted them. The 
idolaters then pitched camp and the siege began. They 
remained thus, face to face, for almost a month without 
any encounter, hurling Homeric insults at each other 
across the ditch. Both night and day the Mussulman 
horsemen rode around the ditch on the lookout for 
surprise attacks. The situation, if prolonged, might 
have become serious, the more so because the Banu 
Qoraidha had allied itself with the enemy. Mahomet 
wanted to use diplomacy and break up the alliance by 
negotiating separately with the Ghatafan. He pro- 
posed giving them a third of the date-harvest of Medina 
if they would depart. 

" Does that idea come from God or from you ? " 
asked Sa'd ben Mo'adh, the chief of the Aws, as this 
plan was being discussed in a council of war. 

" If that order had come from God," retorted 
Mahomet, " I would not ask your advice ; but I see 
that all the Arabs are aiming at us from the same bow 
and I should like to break up their alliance." 

" O Messenger of Allah ! " said Sa'd, " when we 
were pagan like these Banu Ghatafan, they did not 
eat a single one of our dates without paying for 
them ; but now that we have become ennobled by 

2 39 


have found the right road : we would have known 
neither charity nor prayer. Let peace descend upon 
us and strengthen our footsteps should we meet the 
enemy. Surely, if those who attack us want us to 
revolt we shall refuse." And he raised his voice : 

" We shall refuse ! We shall refuse ! " 

His example persuaded the others. When he passed 
with a heavy basket of earth on his shoulder the 
disciples, suffering from hunger and fatigue, cheered 
him, crying : 

" We have sworn fidelity to you and to Islam, O 
Mahomet, as long as life remains in us ! " 

" O, my God ! " said he, " Bless the Ansar and the 
Mohajirun ! The only good is in the life to come." 

He made every effort to keep up their courage, 
turning their miseries into jokes. When Jabir brought 
some barley which was being cooked in some rancid 
fat that gave off an unpleasant smoke, Mahomet 
called out : 

" Oh ! There, you of the ditch ! Here is Jabir 
inviting you to a feast. Come quickly." 

The enemy approached. Even the most faithful 
trembled, their hearts in their mouths. They asked 
themselves where God's aid was. And the 
" hypocrites " protested : 

" Mahomet promised us the treasures of Caesar 
and of Chosroes," said one of them, "and look at us ; 
we cannot even go out to perform our needs without 
risking our lives."' 

Several of them left the army under the pretext 
of having to defend their houses in the surrounding 
districts. Although they had promised to fight with 
him, Mahomet let them go ; for he knew well that 
some of them were only waiting for an occasion to turn 
against him or to provoke disturbances in the city. 



He likewise knew that those who showed so little 
ardour for the battle and wanted so much to betray 
him would be the most exacting when it came to the 
sharing of the spoils. (Koran, xxxiii, 19.) 

The trench had scarcely been finished when 
the enemy appeared. Mahomet placed his three 
thousand men behind the trench, having left 
Medina in command of the blind but faithful 
Ibn Omm Maktum. 

Abu Sofyan and his men advanced but stopped, 
disconcerted, before the ditch and the hail of arrows 
with which the Mussulmans greeted them. The 
idolaters then pitched camp and the siege began. They 
remained thus, face to face, for almost a month without 
any encounter, hurling Homeric insults at each other 
across the ditch. Both night and day the Mussulman 
horsemen rode around the ditch on the lookout for 
surprise attacks. The situation, if prolonged, might 
have become serious, the more so because the Banu 
Qoraidha had allied itself with the enemy. Mahomet 
wanted to use diplomacy and break up the alliance by 
negotiating separately with the Ghatafan. He pro- 
posed giving them a third of the date-harvest of Medina 
if they would depart. 

" Does that idea come from God or from you ? " 
asked Sa'd ben Mo'adh, the chief of the Aws, as this 
plan was being discussed in a council of war. 

" If that order had come from God," retorted 
Mahomet, " I would not ask your advice ; but I see 
that all the Arabs are aiming at us from the same bow 
and I should like to break up their alliance." 

" O Messenger of Allah ! " said Sa'd, " when we 
were pagan like these Banu Ghatafan, they did not 
eat a single one of our dates without paying for 
them ; but now that we have become ennobled by 



Islam we give them our dates for nothing . . . 
By Allah ! We shall give them nothing but sabre 
thrusts ! " 

Sa'd's ardour was soon put to the test. Several 
Qoraishites, amongst whom were 'Ikrima, the son of 
Abu Jahl, Nawfal and 'Amr, uncles of the deceased 
Khadija, found a spot where the ditch was narrower 
than at the other points and, digging the spurs into 
their horses' flanks, they leaped across the ditch. 
Then they challenged the Moslem champions to 
combat. 'Amr pranced up and down on his horse, 
Malhub, whose head was ornamented with a shining 
mirror, and 'Amr sang : " When I mount Malhub 
I am invincible." 

'AH came forth. 

" Who are you ? " cried the Qoraishite 

" 'Ali ben Abi Talib." 

" What do you want ? " 

" To kill you." 

" I should be sorry to kill a child like you.' ' 

" I should not be sorry to kill you. If you wish 
to fight it must be on foot." 

'Amr dismounted ; then with a blow of his sabre 
he cut through his horse's knee saying : " Now, I 
cannot take refuge in flight. I am about to free 
humanity of you, you scourge ! " 

They fought for a long time in a cloud of dust. 
'Ali, fired by his youth, gave powerful blows 
with his sword but it was no easy task to triumph 
over the seasoned champion who was his rival. 

" Did you not say that you would have no one come 
to your aid ? " 'Ali said suddenly. 

" Why do you ask me that ? " asked the other with 

" Because your son is coming to help you." 



'Amr turned round and 'Ali, seeing that his trick 
had succeeded, cut off 'Amr's leg. 

"O Ali," cried 'Amr, reproachfully, "you have 
resorted to a ruse." 

" War is a ruse." 

'Amr seized the severed leg and threw it at 'AH, who 
thrust his sword into 'Amr's chest. 

Sa'd ben Mo'adh was seriously wounded. The 
Qoraishites had recrossed the ditch, but, in doing so, 
Nawfal, miscalculating, fell into the ditch where a 
shower of stones rained upon him. 

" At least kill me with the sword," he cried. 

'Ali heard him, jumped into the ditch where, with 
one blow, he sent his head rolling ; then he pursued 
'Ikrima and succeeded in anchoring a javelin in his loins. 

'Omar, who was engaged in pursuing and insulting 
the idolaters, did not say his afternoon prayers until 
the setting of the sun. 

" I did not say my prayers at all," said Mahomet 
to him. 

The allies, becoming discouraged, spoke of 
retreating, but the Jews of the Banu Qoraidha, terrified 
at the idea of finding themselves alone to face 
Mahomet's vengeance, held them back assuring them 
that with the aid of some troops they could surprise 
the city of Medina at night. But Mahomet sent 
reinforcements to the city in time and once more 
carried on his plan of breaking up the alliance amongst 
his enemies. He sent a Ghatafan deserter to the 
enemy camp for this purpose, who advised the 
Banu Qoraidha to demand hostages of the Qoraishites 
before openly taking up arms against Mahomet and 
at the same time he told the Qoraishites that the Jews 
meant to betray them by taking hostages whom they 
meant to turn over to the Mussulmans. 

241 R 


And, as a matter of fact, when Abu Sofyan sent the 
Jews word to prepare for a general assault, they replied 
asking for hostages and said that they could not fight 
on the day of the Sabbath. And so, convinced of their 
perfidy, the idolaters did not dare undertake the 
attack. On the other hand they had great trouble in 
obtaining food and especially forage for their animals. 

Then there came violent and icy winds and one of 
those downpours of rain characteristic of the Arab 
winter. In a few minutes the camp of the allies was 
in complete disorder. Tents were uprooted and blown a 
considerable distance, fires were extinguished, pots were 
overturned, and the horses and camels scattered. Panic 
reigned. Physical disorder was added to spiritual 

" This is the work of the angels," Mahomet 

" This is the work of the demons," thought the 

Mussulman spies added to the general confusion. 
The nomads had no thought but of flying the accursed 
spot, sending Medina, the Mussulmans and their 
Prophet to the devil. Abu Sofyan, finding himself 
powerless to restore order and not wanting to remain 
alone with the Qoraishites, gave the command to 
retreat. Thus ended the Battle of the Ditch (el 
Khandaq] almost without combat and with but few 
victims (three pagans and six Mussulmans being the 
total casualties)' thus ended this war of the 
" confederated nations " intended to annihilate Islam 
for ever. 

" They will not attack us again," said Mahomet, 
" but the next time we shall attack them on their own 

After so much excitement the people of Medina 



longed for rest, but Mahomet did not see matters in 
that light. As he was perfuming himself the morning 
of the departure of the enemy, he thought he heard 
the voice of the Angel Gabriel say : 

" You have hung up your arms, but I I have not 
hung up mine." 

" Where, then, should we attack ? " 

"On this side," and the Angel, well-known, it is 
said, for his anti-Jewish sentiments, pointed to the 
kasba of the traitorous Banu Qora'idha. 

That very evening Mahomet directed operations 
against this tribe and the next day they were surrounded 
in their fortress. Mahomet began to hurl invectives 
at them. 

"O Abu'lqasim," they said, "until this moment 
you have abstained from insults. What prompts you 
to begin to-day ? " 

Mahomet was so moved at this, that his lance fell 
from his hand and cloak from his shoulders. Then 'Ali 
called to the besieged that there would be an assault 
without mercy, but they defended themselves valiantly 
for twenty-five days. At last when there remained 
nothing but surrender, the Aws of Medina, their 
allies, asked for them the same conditions that had been 
accorded the Banu Nadhir by the intercession of 
the Khazraj. It was decided that their fate should be 
determined by Sa'd ben Mo'adh, chief of the Aws. 
The Jews hoped for a favourable decision from this 
ally of theirs, but Mahomet knew that Sa'd, who had 
been seriously wounded at the Battle of the Ditch, 
considered the Jews as the cause of this war and meant 
to make them pay. 

Fat Sa'd arrived, mounted on his donkey, leaning 
against a cushion of leather and supported by a 
man on either side. 



" Have pity on us," groaned the frightened Jews. 
" Be merciful towards your allies." 

" No one shall ever have the right to say that I 
have given an unjust sentence," he declared, gravely. 
And approaching the Prophet, he cried: "These 
men should be put to death, their possessions 
confiscated, their wives and their children sold into 

" Your judgment has been inspired by the Seventh 
Heaven," said Mahomet, and he had the defeated men 
put into chains and thus brought to Medina. 

They passed the night in an enclosure where they 
could eat the dates that were brought them only by 
snatching at them, like beasts, dragging themselves 
on their bellies. They remained thus during three 
days while their belongings were being transported to 
Medina. Then a great hole was dug in one of the 
squares. Mahomet seated himself on the edge of this 
hole and called Zubai'r and 'AH to execute the 
condemned. One after the other, between six and 
seven hundred men had their throats cut ; there was 
even one woman amongst them who had killed the only 
Mussulman victim by throwing a stone from a terrace. 
Thabit obtained grace for one of the condemned 
who, in former days, had saved his life, but when the 
man asked his protector what had become of this and 
that one of his relatives, and the reply invariably 
being, " He is dead," he asked Thabit for one more 
favour : to send him to join his relatives. Thabit 
fulfilled his wish, cutting off his head with his 
own hands. 

'All and Zubai'r spent the whole day killing ; their 
horrible task was finished by the light of torches 
at night, while Mahomet sat on the edge of the ditch 
and the Jewish women wept. 



The booty, besides the houses and land, comprised 
furniture, animals, three hundred cuirasses, one 
thousand lances and five hundred javelins, which were 
divided amongst the victors, the Prophet retaining a 
fifth for the poor, for his family and for the community. 
The horsemen, now numbering thirty-six, had a larger 
share than the others. The women and children were 
sold in Nejd as slaves and the proceeds went for the 
purchase of arms. Mahomet took as part of his share 
a captive named Rihana, whom he made his concubine, 
but she remained for so long a Jewess that he tired 

Sa'd ben Mo'adh died of his wound, which opened 
again several days later, but Mahomet assured everyone 
that he had gone to paradise. And the Koran 
celebrates this conquest (xxxiii, 26, 27) just as the 
Bible celebrates that of Canaan. 




As for me I only know what God 
has taught me. Koran. 
The king and his subjetts, the 
sultan and the beggar, the wise 
and the ignorant, are all equal 
before the mission of these men, 
Sheikh Mohammed 
'Abdu, Risalat. 

There is no religion based on 
falsehood. Ballanche. 
If such be Islam, are we not all 
Mussulmans ? Goethe. 

HPHE history of humanity hinges on men who have 
-*- felt the " call ", and on decisive moments which, 
had they been otherwise, would have altered the 
pages of history. From time to time a cry is heard, 
a cry in the night, a voice breaking the silence. A man 
awakes with a start ; he goes forth, he knows not 
where, like Elijah, like Abraham flying from burning 
Chaldea. And he goes for ever forward, without 
respite, calling to the others until he awakens them 
from their heavy sleep. 

By a series of free acts, the salvation of humanity 
is thus assured and the road is kept in repair by the 
ministry of martyrs and saints. Thus arose Mahomet 



to call his race to the only religion of the Only God ; 
to arouse a portion of Asia and Africa, to liberate all 
those who understood his message from the slavery of 
a false doctrine, to stir up drowsy Persia and to 
breathe vigour into the Oriental Christians whose 
faith lay lifeless through speculations without fervour 
and lack of union. 

Prophets are sent into the world exactly as the great 
forces of nature, both beneficial and terrible in their 
effects. They are like the sun and the rain, the winter 
tempests in Arabia that tear up the soil only to cover 
it again with a carpet of greenery in a few days' time. 
We must judge them by their fruits. The best fruits 
are hearts and minds that have been pacified, wills 
that have been strengthened, pains borne with patience, 
moral illnesses that have been cured, and prayers which 
have mounted to the pristine heavens. 

Although alone,, without moral or material support, 
opposed by the earthly spirit, prophets carry with them 
the secret of the greatest liberation ; for it is better 
to disobey man than to disobey God before whom 
all are equal, and should bow down ; the spirit should 
be given preference over the letter. Ignorant of all 
things save absolute truths, not so much illiterate as 
pure, natural and supernatural, freed from all prejudices, 
inspired either by the intelligence or the heart, a perfect 
prophet and simple soul Pepped forth to explain to 
the learned what they had been discussing, to 
straighten out the tortuous roads in which the so-called 
wise men had lost their way. In listening to this 
Prophet's inspired discourse and his parables suited 
to the period, men again felt themselves in contact 
with surrounding mysteries, humbled themselves 
before God and learned how to arrange their fleeting 
lives so as to either satisfy or disobey him, therein 



finding a living rule such as neither the advice of 
philosophers nor heads of state could give. Mahomet 
appeared on the scene at one of the darkest periods 
in all history, when all the civilizations, from 
Merovingian Gaul to India, were falling to ruin or 
were in a state of troubled gestation. 

He closely resembled his Hebrew predecessors ; 
Prophet (nabt) at Mecca as was Isaiah in Israel, judge 
at Medina as was Joshua in Canaan. He took the 
title of " Mohammad ", the glorified. He declared 
himself the ummi prophet, that is to say, the apostle of 
the gentiles, sent to the pagan Arabs. 

Mahomet considered himself as the passive instru- 
ment of revelation. His whole ambition was to be 
an attentive clerk, a recording machine, almost 
a phonograph, faultlessly reproducing the words 
coming from the mouth of the luminous shadow. 
These words were the earthly form of the everlasting, 
the eternal, the uncreated Word of God, the " Mother 
of the Book " preserved in the Seventh Heaven by 
ecstatic angels. Of the difference between the divine 
Koran and the Koran engraved on the memory of 
men, written on leaves, on bark or on the scapulas of 
sheep, between the eternal Word and the temporal 
Word, we are able to judge with more " relativity " 
than were the contemporaries of the Prophet, or the 
Moslem theologians. And so we see the Koran 
carefully adapt itself to suit the circumstances, revealed 
day by day, according to the need for action and the 
interests of Islam, annulling and sometimes contra- 
dicting itself, changing its decisions to meet the 
objections and weaknesses of the faithful. But to 
the eyes of the Prophet himself the message came 
before the messenger. " A simple verse of the Book of 
God is worth more than Mahomet and all his family.'' 



Every Prophet must furnish a proof of his divine 
mission : a miracle of a special nature (mu'jiza) as 
distinguished from the miracles of the saints (karama), 
a miracle that brings with it a challenge. Moses 
challenged the magicians of Pharaoh to perform wonders 
comparable to his, and so he bent the stubborn Hebrew 
people under the flaming rod of his miracles. " Never 
has a man spoken as does this man," they said of Jesus. 

The Koran is the only miracle performed by 
Mahomet." Its literary beauty, its irradiation, an 
enigma even to-day, have the power of putting those 
who recite it into a state of fervour, even if they are the 
least pious. And Mahomet defied either man or 
jinn to produce anything comparable ; this was the 
proof that he offered of the authenticity of his mission . 
It is not a question of exceptional literary value. 
Mahomet despised poets and did not want to be ranked 
with them. This was altogether another thing ; 
the difference between an inspiration coming from God 
or from the. jinn. There is little doubt that each verse, 
even though it is related to some insignificant thing 
in his private life, shook him profoundly to the depths 
of his soul. Undoubtedly, too, .it is there that one 
should look for the secret of his influence and his 
prodigious success. 

To-day we cannot question his sincerity. His whole 
life, in spite of his faults (and he did not deny having 
faults), proves that he believed profoundly in his 
mission and that he accepted it heroically as a burden 
of which he was to bear the heaviest portion. His 
creative ability and the vastness of his genius, his 
great intelligence, his sense of the practical, his will, 
his prudence, his self-control and his activity in 
short, the life he led make it impossible to take this 
inspired mystic for a visionary epileptic. 



He never for an instant asked himself whether his 
chances of convincing people would not be greater 
if he adjusted his words to the mentality of his 
audience. It was certainly not with soft words that 
he made converts, but in presenting his brilliant 
message in all its vigour, simple and sharp as the edge 
of a sword, a message which he carefully distinguished 
from his personal views. If at Medina he was no 
longer the humble and patient Prophet of Mecca 
it is because the circumstances were no longer the 
same ; had he remained the same outwardly, his 
essential character would have had to change. The 
man may have been sometimes blameworthy or weak, 
for action is a difficult test of purity, but the prophet 
remained sincere and unchanged. He may have sinned, 
but he did not lie. How can we imagine a man in 
whose eyes success appeared only as a divine con- 
firmation suddenly becoming a liar (and surely there 
can be no question of his sincerity at the beginning of 
his career) ? And how could he have dared to debase 
his mission at the very moment when he believed it 
to be confirmed ? 

The very faults of the Prophet prove that his unique 
and real grandeur came from God, from his super- 
natural inspiration. Without God he felt himself 
alone and weak. 

" O God," he prayed in the night, " do not let me 
fall again. Do not abandon me for a single moment." 

" Why do you speak so ? " asked his wife, Omm 
Selma, "when God has forgiven you your sins past 
and future ? " 

" O Omm Selma, how can I be safe when God once 
abandoned the Prophet Jonah ? O my God, pardon 
me my sins, past and present, great and small, secret 
or known. Every day I repent seventy times. Wash 



me of my sins in snow and ice, wash my heart as one 
washes a garment, place between me and my faults 
the distance between the East and the West." 

He records in the Koran the faults with which God 
reproached him. Once he turned his back on a poor 
blind man (Ixxx, I u) and there were divine 
reproofs when he indulged in too strong imprecations 
against his enemies or when he was weak with 
his wives, etc. . . . 

The theories of epilepsy, auto-suggestion or an 
excited imagination elaborated by psychiatrists do 
not take into account the camp-life of the desert and 
the ingenuity required to retain a place as a simple 
chief of a band of Bedouins. 1 Until he felt the call, 
his life had been normal and perfectly balanced and, 
his revelations apart, it never ceased to be. As in the 
case of the authentic mystics and the prophets of 
Israel it is not because he was ill that he had visions ; 
it is because he had visions that his body presented 
pathological symptoms. 

" My heart was broken within me, all my bones 
trembled ; I am like a drunken man because of the 
Lord and his holy words," cried Jeremiah ; and Amos, 
wrapped in his mantle, like Mahomet, speaks in the 
same tone. 

Neurotics, false mystics and authentic visionaries 
present certain phenomena in common. The one is 
purely passive ; the other active and creative. At the 
most we might say that a morbid tendency may 
facilitate trances which, in their turn, would increase 

1 L. Massignon, Essai sur le lexique technique de la mystique 
musulmane, 122, says that in order to see in Mahomet a very adroit 
legislator artificially dosing his prescriptions and the Koranic revela- 
tions, " it is necessary to overlook this fundamental point : that 
Mahomet did not manufaSure the Koran." 



the tendency. But one finds no traces, as it seems, of 
this pathological slate in Mahomet. Until he was 
a middle-aged man his health was perfect and the 
attacks did not occur except for purposes of revelation. 
Aside from this and the illness which caused his 'death 
when he was about sixty, he suffered almost only 
from a few headaches induced by long marches in the 
sun, which were treated by cupping. 

The revelations assuredly caused him much suffering 
and certain phenomena would then take place which 
he did not care to show in public. Abu Bakr one day 
commented in a melancholy way on the Prophet's 
beard which had begun to turn white. 

"It is the Hud) the Inevitable, the Striking, and 
their sisters, the terrifying suras (xi, xxi, Ivi, 
Ixix, Ixxvii, Ixxviii, Ixxxi and ci) that have put 
me into such a state," his friend replied. 

After the revelations, there remained a heavy 
feeling in the head, which he treated with poultices. 
When he felt himself about to go into a trance, he had 
himself covered with a veil and could be heard groaning 
and breathing heavily. Even in winter when -he came 
out of a trance he was drenched in perspiration. 

Ya'la ben Omayya had asked 'Omar to let him see 
the Prophet in the throes of a revelation. One day 
on the road to Mecca the occasion presented itself. 
Someone had asked a question on the ritual of the 
pilgrimage. Mahomet was silent for an instant and 
then a revelation came to him. 'Omar had Ya'la 
approached and lifted the veil. Ya'la saw the Prophet's 
face very red ; he was breathing noisily and " groaning 
like a calf" ; then he fell into a state of torpor from 
which he aroused himself to ask : 

" Where is the man who questioned me ? " 
Immediately after the trance the Prophet recited 



the revealed verses ; someone would either learn them 
by heart or write them down under his dictation. Zaid 
ben Tha"bit seems to have been his favourite secretary. 
When verse 97, iv, was revealed, relating to those who 
refused to take part in the holy war, Mahomet called 
to Zaid to write it on the scapula of a sheep. Just 
then Ibn Maktum presented himself, saying : 

"I should indeed like to go to war but I am 

At that moment the Prophet's thigh was resting on 
that of Zaid, who felt its weight increase to such an 
extent that he began to fear his own was going to be 
crushed. Then Mahomet recited the sequel which 
exempted the infirm and those forced by necessity 
to remain behind. 

The revelations came in several different manners, 
more or less clearly. At certain moments the Prophet 
heard a noise like the buzzing of a confused conversa- 
tion or the tinkling of a bell or the rustling of wings. 
He did not grasp the sense of the words until the noise 
had ceased. This was the most fatiguing method of 
revelation and brought with it the most striking 
external phenomena. At other times, the angel 
appeared in human form (that of Dihya ben Khalifa, 
they say, one of the handsomest men of his day) or 
else in his own form. This vision would speak 
distinctly and Mahomet understood. This method, 
though superior to the preceding one, ranks below 
that of the vision which sometimes came directly 
to the Prophet. One recognizes here the classification 
of the Catholic theologists ; the graduation is the 
same from the physical vision to the imaginative vision 
and to the intellectual vision. To be sure there is 
a difference between the revelations of prophets, 
objective messages, law texts and definite orders and 



the revelations of mystics, subjective proofs of an 
inner transformation. 

The Koran ordered the Prophet not to become 
nervous during the revelations, not " to roll his 
tongue about ", not to weary himself in efforts to 
retain the text which God himself engraved on his 
memory with a facility almost frightening. 

Far from being the creator of the composition 
of the Koran, Mahomet sometimes awaited in vain for 
revelations which placed him one day as we have seen, 
in an embarrassing situation. He would have preferred 
that the angel come a little oftener. 

What is certain is the disorder and the incoherence 
of the text now used. The sacred books, in an 
essentially oral style, were not generally written until 
some time after their inception when the memory 
had dimmed and variations had begun to set in. Such 
is the case of the Koran. Seventy years after the 
Prophet an official version, ne varietur^ was decided 
upon and all the other versions were destroyed. 

At the death of the Prophet four Ansar knew the 
Koran by heart : Mo'adh ben Jabal, Zaid ben 
Thabit, Obayy ben Ka'b and 'Abdallah ben Mas'ud. 
Upon the advice of 'Omar, the Caliph Abu Bakr, in 
spite of his own dislike and the scruples of Zaid ben 
Thabit, ordered the latter to make a connected 
work, gathering together all the fragments written 
on pieces of pottery, palms, leaves, bones or in the 
memories of men. Later Caliph 'Othman ordered 
Zaid and three Qoraishites to establish a text after the 
copies in the possession of Hafsa, one of Mahomet's 
widows, and burned all the others. 'Abdallah ben 
Mas'ud, of whom the Prophet had said : "Whoever 
wishes to recite the Koran correctly and with grace, 
would do well to follow the reading by Ibn Mas'ud," 



protested against the edition to which he had not been 
invited to contribute. 'Othman had him beaten to 
death. As to the definitive text, it is due to the efforts 
of Hajjaj, a lieutenant of Caliph 'Adb el Melik, who 
proceeded in the same fashion as had 'Othman. 

It was not possible to classify the verses with any sort 
of system. The longer suras were put at the beginning, 
usually those revealed at Medina, and the shorter 
suras at the end, usually those of Mecca and the period 
when he began to preach. There are innumerable 
repetitions and some verses are obviously out of place. 
How can we know whether there have been additions, 
suppressions, interpretations, and to what extent ? 
How can we know whether the hadiths^ or the simple 
words of Mahomet as a man and not as an inspired 
Prophet have been slipped into the Koran proper ? 
According to Ja'far, the Koran contained the names 
of seven Qoraishites and out of these seven only 
that of Abu Lahab remains ; the Shi'ites accuse the 
Sunnites of having eliminated the passages favourable 
to 'Ali. One of Mahomet's secretaries, 'Abdallah 
ben Sa'd ben Abi Sarh, used to amuse himself by 
modifying what the Prophet had dictated ; exposed, 
he fled to Mecca where he abjured Islam, but later 
he returned. 

We do not claim to resolve the problem of the 
Koran but, generally speaking, it is chiefly in the 
hadiths rather than in the Holy Book that bold falsifica- 
tion has taken place. 

Mahomet is not a theologist who speculates on 
the divine essence. He is drunk with the spirit of 
God. God is for him the absolute and necessary 
Reality. The Arabs did not deny the existence of 
God, the supreme creator, but they placed him in a 
far-away heaven ; they feared him a little, did not 


think of loving him and in practice rendered him less 
homage than the idols and jinns from whom they 
expected much more definite help. God was far 
away but the idol was near at hand ; its priests and the 
oracles spoke in its name. From a vague abstraction 
Mahomet made a terrible and present reality of God 
and put the jinns and the angels in a secondary place. 
God had been far away, but henceforth he would be 
" closer to each man than his own carotid artery ". 
The proof of his existence lies in the necessity of a 
Being who remains for ever fixed in the midst of the 
universal flux of things, as a permanent witness of the 
passing of things. " There is no power and help but 
in Him. We come from God and we return to God." 
He is the First and the Last, the Apparent and the 
Hidden, the One, the Living, the Highest in Himself 
and by Himself, the Powerful, the Creator, the Grand, 
the Magnificent, the Conqueror, the Glorious, the 
Worthy of Praise, the Majestic, the Strong, the Firm, 
the Wise, the Holy King, the Best of Judges, the 
Benefactor, the Real. He who exists always, who 
understands all and is sufficient unto Himself, the 
Eternal, the Inheritor of all when all save Him shall 
be dead, the Governor, the Witness, the Faithful, 
the Guide, the Guardian, the Protector, the Donator, 
the Provider, He who answers prayers, who watches, 
who foresees, who opens and who closes, and who for- 
gives much, for He is the Compassionate and the 
Merciful without bounds. 

Man is naked without defence, without excuse, 
before God ; but it pleases God to forgive. On his 
throne is inscribed : " My mercy outweighs my 
anger." He will forgive all those who forgive. God 
has more pleasure in a sinner who repents than has a 
nomad who, after having exhausted himself running 



in the desert searching for a straying camel, finds 
him at his feet in the morning. Man lives only to 
worship God who, however, has no need of him. We 
must desire Allah's Face and we must act, inspired 
by love of this Face. Everything is on the road to 
destruction except Allah's Face. This " theocentric " 
being of Mahomet's would have delighted the soul 
of Berulle, Condren and the abbe Bremond ; the 
word " Islam " itself expresses this ideal of religious 

When we are filled with the divine spirit the soul 
is'at peace and this feeling springs from faith. This 
happy state is attained by prayer, by fasting and by 
giving what we value most. 

Although the Koran does not repeat after St. John 
the great Christian revelation that " God is love ", 
Mahomet knew very well that Allah loves his creatures 
better than a mother loves her children, and 
he declared : 

" God will reward goodness a hundredfold. He has 
reserved for himself ninety-nine hundredths of all 
goodness and, by virtue of the hundredth part left 
on earth, all his creatures are animated with a feeling 
of love, and the horse lifts up its hoof for fear of 
hurting the child." 

The Koran tells us to return good for evil and we 
shall see our enemy change into a protector and friend. 

Faith without love and without the works of love 
is a dead faith. One must flee anger, hatred, envy, 
slander and pride. " He who takes the first step 
towards a reconciliation is the better of the two. The 
true Mussulman is the Mussulman whose hand and 
whose tongue is not feared. The true Mohajri is 
he who flees what God has forbidden " 

For this holy emigration Mahomet demanded, as 

257 s 


had Jesus before him, that the disciple leave his 
father and his mother to follow him. 

" Each Mussulman is a stone of the same edifice," 
" Love ye one another for you are all part of the soul 
of God. " 

And God transcendent (whom the learned doctors 
have separated from the world by an impassable 
abyss) is accessible through love, the Highest is 
the king of the infirm, the Inviolate is close to the 
humblest, the Creator is a friend. " O my God,' 
says the Prophet, " Thou art the refuge of my weakness 
and of my incompleteness, O Thou, the most merciful 
of the merciful, the king of the feeble, thou art my 
Lord. To whom else can I appeal ? If thou art 
not against me, the rest does not matter." 

He knew that the true religion is based upon things 
of the spirit. " An act must be judged by the 
intention . . . The fasting of him who does not 
renounce lying and deceit is not acceptable to God." 

The Koran says : 

// is not righteousness that ye turn your faces in prayer towards 
the east and the weft, but righteousness is of him who believetk in 
God and the lafl day, and the angels and the scriptures and the prophets ; 
who giveth money for God's sake unto his kindred and unto orphans, 
and the needy, and the Granger, and those who ask, and for redemption 
of captives ; who is co?isJant at prayer and giveth alms ; and of 
those who perform their covenant . . . and who behave themselves 
patiently in adversity, (ii, 172.) 

And it continues to tell us that the flesh and blood 
of victims do not reach God, but that piety mounts 
to the heavens . . . 

" Help your brother," Mahomet said one day, 
" whether he be the oppressor or the oppressed." 

" O Messenger of God," said some one to him, 
" I would gladly assist my brother were he oppressed, 
but how can I aid the oppressor ? " 



"In preventing him from doing evil." 

Upon returning from an expedition he said : 

" We are now returning from the little holy war ; 
now we must enter upon the great holy war, the war 
against ourselves." 

Man's love should extend to all creatures ; for 
when even the humblest bird unfolds its wings, it 
praises the Lord. 

Indisputably, Mahomet's preachings brought about 
a great progress in Arabian life as regards both the 
family and hygiene. Woman's status, as we shall 
see, was greatly improved. Prostitution, temporary 
marriage and free love were forbidden as well as the 
forcing of captives into prostitution to enrich their 
masters. He tolerated slavery but he also regulated 
it. To free a slave he cited as a good action ; for 
certain infractions of the ritual the freeing of a slave 
was the penance. 

" Whoever frees a slave shall be exempted from 
hell ; for every member of the liberated slave, a 
member of the liberator shall be freed, even to the 
secret parts of his body . . . Your slaves are your 
brothers. Give them the same food and the same 
clothing that you wear. Do not force them to work 
beyond their strength." 

Abu Dharr having called Bilal " the son of 
a negress ", Mahomet said : 

" You still retain some pre-Islamic sentiments." 

They must not say his " slave " but his " servant " ; 
nor my "master" for there is no master but God. 
En Nadhr's daughter having broken the tooth of a 
slave in violently slapping her, Mahomet saw to it 
that she was repaid in the same coin. 

" Shall we be rewarded for kindness to animals ? " 
someone asked the Prophet. 



" There will be a reward for whoever quenches the 
thirst of any creature endowed with a living heart. 
He who has caused a well to be dug will be rewarded 
for every camel which comes to drink of the water." 

When we see how the asses are abused in North 
Africa we realize to what an extent many of the hadiths 
recommending kindness have been forgotten. 
Mahomet cursed anyone who mutilated an animal and 
forbade the killing of animals in cold blood when not 
necessary. Ibn 'Omar, remembering the Prophet's 
words, rescued a hen from some ragamuffins who 
wanted to use her as a target. The animals will be 
present at the Last Judgment to testify against cruel 
masters. A woman who had let a cat die of hunger 
shall suffer for ever in hell as the cat claws at her. But, 
on the other hand, a prostitute shall enter the kingdom 
of heaven because one day having seen a dog dying of 
thirst beside a well she attached her shoe to her veil 
and drew water for it to drink. 

Theologists, moralists, jurists and mystics will 
find in the Mahometan teachings the premises of 
their arguments, each one then going in his particular 
direction, but preserving a strictly theocentric basis. 
The several schools all cite the hadiths^ true and false, 
with which to maintain their contradictions. The great 
metaphysical problems, which scarcely interested 
Mahomet, spring from these hadiths. In the dis- 
cussion about free will, for example, both the fatalist 
Jabarites and their opponents the Qadarites seek to 
prove their points by the Koran and the Sunna. The 
question is couched in the same terms and receives 
the same solution as given by the scholastics, Thomas 
Aquinas, Bossuet, the Jansenists and the Molinists. 
The Koran, which insists upon the all-powerfulness 
and prescience of God, says that " all comes from God " 



but that evil comes from the perverted human will. 
We may find texts both for and against free will ; 
these are the two ends of the chain of which the human 
spirit has never seized the intermediary links. If the 
Mussulmans, especially during the decadent periods, 
seem to lean towards " Oriental fatalism ", there is 
nothing in the Koran to compel this, contrary to 
what Leibnitz and current opinion believe. When 
a Bedouin asked Mahomet whether it was necessary 
to tie up his camel, the Prophet replied : 

" Tie up your camel and trust yourself to God." 
But when someone said it was useless to act when all 
was already known in advance by God, he replied : 

" Acl: ; the task will be made easy for you." Which 
is the same as saying : " Heaven helps them who help 

" At the same time act, as regards this world, as if 
you were going to live for ever ; and as regards the 
other world as if you were going to die to-morrow," 
the Prophet is supposed to have said. This, truly, 
is the wisdom and the solution of all ethics. 

" The most intelligent Mussulmans," he added, 
" are those who think oftenest of death and prepare 
themselves as best they can for the life that is to follow." 
Sometimes Christian asceticism and Moslem morality 
are held up for comparison, rather unnecessarily, 
it would appear. Islam seems to be more indulgent 
to the flesh ; it does not demand the mortification 
of the flesh and it teaches that prayer will rise the higher 
from a body that has had all legitimate pleasures. 
But actually the austerities of the Moslem mystics 
are equal to those of the ascetics of any other religion. 
Also, Islam forbids the drinking of wine, ordains a 
fast far more rigorous than that of any other religion, 
and the Moslem women have imposed on them a 



severity of behaviour and dress not equalled by any 
other European standards for women to-day. With 
the constant clashes between practice and theory and 
the inconsistency of theories on different points, it is 
a little pretentious to make clearly drawn parallels. 
It is likewise often very difficult to determine what 
results from principles and what relates to the customs 
of the country and of the time. 

In the ultra-civilized Roman Empire, voluptuous 
and decadent, the first Christians were opposed, 
naturally, to the general sensuality. In pagan Arabia, 
where the customs were free but rude, the first 
Mussulmans stigmatized the heathen practices ; but 
the Bedouins, famished half the year, semi-naked, 
without any adequate shelter, almost always at war, 
were naturally deprived of any excesses of pleasure, 
although when an occasion presented itself they 
relished it like grown-up, impetuous children. Later, 
with the coming of great riches, there appeared the 
necessity for an ascetic reaction and the Sufi movement 
sprang into being, the social life having ceased to be 
that of the warrior and shepherd. ' 

All religious movements are of necessity at their 
beginning ascetic. The Koran never ceases to repeat 
that the life of this world is nothing compared to that 
of the other, and only a temporary state, a vain game 
if it does not fulfil its essential aim. Selman, like 
Pascal, compared the believer to a sick person whom the 
physician forbade to eat that which would do him harm. 

"Act, in this world," said Ibn 'Omar, "like a 
stranger and passer-by." 

" If you knew what I know," said the Prophet, 
" you would laugh little and cry a great deal." 

Sometimes at night Mahomet would wake with a 
start, shaken by the thought of the end. Then 



he would gather his wives together and preach 
to them. 

The disciples would have attacks of repentance and 
mystic enthusiasm. Abu Talha, who owned more 
palm-groves in Medina that anyone else (the Prophet 
often went to drink of the fresh water flowing in 
his favourite grove), one day hearing the verse of the 
Koran which says the real piety consists in giving others 
what one most values, offered his lands. Mahomet 
congratulated him, but recommended that he give 
them to his kindred. At another time an Ansari 
dashed into a mosque, threw himself upon his knees, 
and cried aloud his sin : 

" The last of the last has committed fornication ! " 

Mahomet turned his back and did not answer. 
The man followed him, repeating his confession four 
times. And it is said that the man was stoned for this. 

Several of the faithful increased their penances, 
their prayers and their fasting. Mahomet had to modify 
their zeal and forbid that they fast oftener than every 
other day. He disapproved of excessive mortification. 
When some of them had had themselves led in the 
pilgrimage with camels' tethers drawn through their 
noses, Mahomet cut the cords saying : 

" God does not require that man mutilate himself." 

Far from considering worldly possessions an indica- 
tion of divine favour, Mahomet was troubled by them, 
for he did not wish to receive all his reward in this 
world ; and we ought not be deceived by the prosperity 
of the wicked. 

" What I fear most for you," he often said to his 
adherents, " are the things that are given you in 
this world." 

" Can good result in evil ? " he was asked. 

Mahomet was at that moment in the pulpit. He 



ceased preaching, and those in the congregation said 
to one another : " He is having a revelation." 

After a long silence Mahomet wiped the perspira- 
tion from his brow, called forward the one who had 
questioned him, and then said three times : 

" Are the splendours of this world really worthy 
of the name of good ? " 

Then he went on to say that riches were only 
desirable if they had been come by honestly and if 
they were employed in a godly manner in helping 
the poor. If not, riches were a curse, and in any case, 
a great temptation. " The richest in this world will 
be the poorest in the next, unless they distribute thus : 
(and the Prophet made a gesture, first in front of 
him, then to the right and left, as if he were distributing 
gifts profusely). Alas ! how few do it ! 

God's curse was upon those who refused to give 
alms, for charity is the only possible purification of 
wealth. " I," said the doorkeeper of hell, " I see pass 
by my gate mostly the proud, the carnal, the rich." 

" And how is it," said the gate-keeper of paradise, 
" that only the poor, the feeble and the humble 
enter here ? " 

The worshipper of the dinar will perish. On the 
Day of Judgment, the treasures melted down by a white 
heat and then cast into the form of a python with a 
bald head and horns, will burn the miser and will 
pursue those who have made bad use of their wealth, 
crying : "I am your wealth, I am your treasure ! " 

Mahomet was indignant at the cupidity of his 
people ; he thundered against hoarding, usury, the 
extortions of the merchants, the partiality of the law 
towards the rich. Much of this was softened in sub- 
sequent interpretations, but at first the Islamites asked 
themselves whether all luxury ought not to be 



rigorously proscribed and many thought it wrong to 
have more than what was absolutely required for bare 
necessities. Undoubtedly, this was too unconditional, 
too absolute a doctrine, to have permitted Islam to 
conquer the world and to found the empire of the 
Caliphs, but it was well in keeping with the primitive 

The sermons of the prophet must have been very 
impressive. He repeated his expressions in a way 
that often spread terror amongst his auditors. He 
spoke so eloquently one day of the torments of the 
tomb that his listeners " let out a great howl ". His 
emotions were so tense, that when he was asked 
idle questions he grew angry very easily. As we 
have seen, he found new and touching images with 
which to describe the infinite mercy of Allah and the 
joys of the chosen, but he also spoke unceasingly of 
the apocalyptic terrors awaiting the doomed. 

Men will become drunk without wine ; children 
will have white hair. Whosoever can find a refuge, 
let him hide. Thirty antichrists will appear. The 
girl-slave will give birth to her master ; humble 
herders of camels will sprawl about in palaces ; people 
will be set to work building houses of extra- 
ordinary height. At doomsday men will stand before 
God unclothed, uncircumcized as at the day of their 
birth. ("Then," said the arch 'Ai'sha, "men and 
women will see each other quite naked ? " " The 
circumstances will be too serious for them to pay 
attention to such matters," was the reply.) Under 
a burning sun and filled with shame, they will be 
immersed up to the neck in their own sweat. God 
alone knows the date of that Hour, which will come 
upon us suddenly. We must therefore always be ready 
for it. The Hour will come upon us so quickly that two 



men having unfolded some goods shall not have the 
time in which to conclude their bargain or to fold 
up the goods again. That Hour will be full upon 
us before a man who is carrying a morsel of food to 
his mouth shall have had time to eat it. The 
Prophet is like a man who has been despoiled by an 
enemy army and who says : "I have seen the army 
with my own eyes and I come to warn you. Save 
yourselves ! " 

But they did not all listen. 

One night Mahomet awoke with a start in Zainab's 
bed, all red and out of breath ; he said : 

" Woe unto the Arabs ! A fissure as big as that 
(and he made a little circle with his thumb and fore- 
finger) has just rent the wall of Gog and Magog." 

These eschatological terrors obsessed the Mussul- 
mans who asked themselves whether antichrist had 
not already been born. A young Jew of Medina, Ibn 
Sayyad, famous for his ability to foretell the future 
and for his hostility to Islam, publicly ridiculed the 
Prophet. One day, while walking with 'Omar and 
others of his companions, the Prophet met Ibn Sayyad 
who was playing with some other lads near the fortress 
of the Banu Moghala. Mahomet touched him on the 
shoulder and said : 

" Bear witness with me that Allah alone is God and 
that I am his Messenger." 

The ragamuffin looked him in the eyes and replied : 

" I testify that you are the Messenger of the 
barbarians. And you, will you bear witness that I 
am the Messenger of Allah ? " 

" I believe in God and in his prophet," said 
Mahomet, shaking the impertinent boy, " And you 
what visions do you have ? " 

" Sometimes true visions and sometimes false ones." 




" It is because your jinn confuses things for you. 
Very well, at this instant I am thinking of something. 
Tell me what it is." 

" You are thinking of the smo . . . " (it is thought 
that the word was smoke). 
Do not go too far." 

Messenger of God, let me kill him," interrupted 

" No, if he is what I think he is (antichrist) no 
one would have any power over him, for it is Jesus 
who must vanquish him ; if he is not, there is no 
advantage to be gained in killing him." 

Another day, in a palm-grove, Ibn Sayyad, lying 
in his cloak, was prophesying. Mahomet and Obayy 
ben Ka'b, passing near by, wished to hear his words. 

" Heu ! There's Mahomet ! " called his mother 
to the lad. He fled at once. 

" Had that woman let him be we would have known 
exactly what he is," said Mahomet. 

Although the Prophet's preachings were tinged with 
ideas about the end of the world, he aimed none the 
less at reorganizing Moslem society, and the Koran 
is at the same time a Book of Warning, a Psalm to 
God's glory and a collection of statutes. 

Thus in the first years following the Hegira were 
established the five pillars of the Moslem religion : 
prayer, fasting, the tithe, pilgrimage and the attesta- 
tion of the divine unity. The practices of the Prophet 
(sunn a) established the manner. Thus, for the call 
to prayer, some wanted to use the clapper as did the 
Christians, some the trumpets as did the Jews and 
some bonfires as did the Mazdians. Upon the 
advice of 'Omar, Mahomet had the negro Bilal cry 
the announcement with his powerful voice. It was 
thus that Bilal became the official muezzin of the 



Prophet, the first muezzin and the patron of all the 
muezzins who for thirteen centuries have called forth 
five times a day from all minarets that Allah is greatest. 

It was also Bilal, long, thin, bent, with the face of 
a crow under a head of thick grey hair, his lance in 
his hand, who walked in front of his master to celebrate 
at the gates of the city the Greater and the Lesser 
Feasts, that of the sheep recalling the Passover and 
the sacrifice of Abraham, and that of the end of the 
fast day (thereafter set for the month of Ramadan). 

But all the ritualistic ordinances, either compulsory 
or elective, which are not explained entirely by the 
hygienic theory advanced by the modernists, nor the 
taboos dear to the hearts of ethnologists, were destined 
first of all for the exterior discipline of the cult and for 
the general good and the cohesion of the community, 
and finally (and essentially) as a rule of conduct to 
prepare the believers for the inner purification, 
inculcating them all with a religious spirit and pre- 
paring some of them for a mystic life. And the 
" sacrament ", one might say the essential of Islam, 
was the reciting of the verses of the Koran, the shining 
pearls of the necklace of everlasting wisdom. 




Praise God who transforms our 
hearts ! 

TN the later part of his life Mahomet's liking for 
-^ women increased. He had been faithful to 
Khadija, a woman much older than himself, for twenty 
years. And now this temperate husband tasked new 
and voluptuous joys with the young 'Aisha, -a wife at 
nine years of age not exceptional in a country where 
often exist grandmothers of twenty-five. As statesman 
and soldier, Mahomet organized his house at Medina 
in the same manner as the Arab sayyids ; like those 
chiefs he made many marriages both for convenience 
and for love, though not refusing to accept at the same 
time a few beautiful slaves as concubines offered as 
gifts or captives of war. As his dormant sensuality 
increased, he multiplied one by one the doors leading 
on to the inner court of the mosque and each com- 
municating with the apartments of his wives. 

He had married Sawda, Sokran's widow, after 
Khadija's death and before 'Ai'sha was old enough 
for the marriage-bed. By espousing another widow, 
Hafsa, the daughter of 'Omar, he not only established 
an excellent relationship between himself and the latter, 
but 'won a great beauty of eighteen who played an 
important role in his harem. Omm Selma, the widow 
of one of the Abyssinian emigrants, had refused both 
Abu Bakr and 'Omar, and even raised objections to 
marrying Mahomet himself. 



" Can such happiness be that the Prophet thinks 
of me ? " she said. " I am already thirty and have a 
son ; moreover, I have a very jealous dis- 
position ..." Nevertheless, the Prophet married 
her after his defeat at Ohod. 

" At least you are a little younger than I," he said, 
" and I will be a father to your son Selma ; as for 
your jealous disposition, I will pray Allah to uproot 
it from your heart." And, like the others, he gave her 
a marriage portion of four hundred dirhems and for 
her house a sack of barley, a hand-mill, a cooking-pot, 
ajar of butter and a mattress of palm-fibres. 

Mahomet was still very attached to Zaid ben Haritha, 
whom he called his " Well-Beloved ". He was 
continually consulting this faithful freedman and 
adopted son, and looked upon him as his possible 
heir ; many Oriental Viziers cherish their former 
young slaves, making them their consultants and 
successors. The same year after the surrender of the 
Banu Nadhir, Mahomet went to visit Zaid. That 
day Zaid was absent, and Mahomet found himself 
in the presence of Zainab bint Jahsh, the most 
beautiful girl of her tribe. She was without her veil 
and partly naked, busying herself with her toilet and 
her household duties. In all the freshness of her youth 
and' lovely in her disarray, Zaid's wife made a great 
impression on Mahomet. She blushed with confusion. 
As he went out, he said : 

" Praised be God who transforms our hearts and 
does with them as he pleases ! " 

Zainab was aware of the effect she had produced 
and told her story to her husband who was greatly 
surprised. While very devoted to his benefactor, 
he knew also Mahomet's susceptible temperament ; 
the situation was most perplexing. He knew that 



under these conditions he could no longer keep his 
wife. His motives may have been those of the noblest 
sacrifice, the most delicate token of esteem ; on the 
other hand they may have arisen from vulgar ambition 
or a cowardly desire to please. Most probably, the 
unfortunate, embarrassed man must have said to himself 
that there was no other possible outcome and that it 
was better to construe bad fortune into virtuous 
necessity. He divulged his intention to repudiate 
Zainab to the Prophet. 

" Why ? " said Mahomet. " What fault have you 
to find with her ? " 

" None, but I can no longer live with her." 
" Come ! Keep your wife and fear God." 
But Zaid thought that from delicacy, affection and 
fear of scandal, the Prophet was not expressing what 
he really thought. He persisted in his resolution, 
found a subtle pretext for disclaiming his wife and 
repudiated her several days later. (Who knows what 
may have gone on in this woman's mind ?) When 
the legal period of separation after the divorce had 
expired, the beautiful Zainab sent some one to inform 
Mahomet. " It is because of you that Zaid repudiated 
me," was the message. Although the Prophet 
wanted to marry her he was ashamed and, moreover, 
the law forbade marriage with the wife of an adopted 
son of the same name as that of a real son. But God, 
surrounded by his angels, understood the perplexity of 
his Elected, and revealed to him that he might take 
Zainab to wife. 

" Who will carry this news to Zainab ? " cried 
Mahomet in the height of his joy. 'Aisha became 

j" ** ** * 

lunous, but her husband said to her ; 

" Do you wish to oppose God's command ? " 

A woman ran to inform the divorcee, and soon after 



Mahomet went to her house to consummate the 
marriage. The celebrations were sumptuous and the 
repast the riches!: of all the marriage-feasts given by 
the Prophet. Anas ben Malik, the young servant, 
invited all the faithful, groups of whom came during 
the day in turn to eat roast mutton, fruits, barley 
cakes, honey and a hats a of butter, cheese and dates 
which Omm Solaim prepared. 

If this unaccustomed merrymaking produced joy 
amongst the guests, it also loosed their tongues in 
criticism. Certain of them took pains to censure this 
incestuous marriage and the scandal was great. 
Mahomet's enemies were given a good opportunity. 
But the Koran answered the critics ; reproaching the 
Prophet with having had too much respect for' men, 
it declared that God had arranged this marriage so that 
in future it would not be a crime for believers to 
marry wives repudiated by their adopted sons. It 
announced that, above all, Mahomet was not the father 
of any man amongst the Mussulmans. 

In consequence Mahomet was obliged to disclaim 
Zaid as a possible heir and Zaid resumed his name of 
Ibn Haritha instead of that of Ibn Mohammed which 
he bore before. Allah's Prophet was solemnly and 
formally summoned to renounce his chosen successor, 
and with him, his own desire not to wholly die. 

In spite of its dangerous aspect his marriage with 
Zainab, the sanction of a divine decree bearing on 
the judicial rule of adoption and on the exclusive 
character of the Prophetic mission, was in a different 
category from the deceitful culmination of a sensual 
passion. In this we see a most varied, psychological 
complexity. If Mahomet, with touching simplicity, 
considered God as watching over his Prophet's 
desires with benevolent tenderness, he regarded the 



Koran as far greater than his personal ambitions and 
respected the holy text so far as to even use it against 
himself without attempting to hide what might have 
been embarrassing. If he stepped out boldly into the 
domain of" lawful " actions (hiiafy he was all the more 
strictly opposed to unlawful ones (haram). 

The wedding-feast was continued far into the night 
near Zainab's chamber. The last guests delayed to 
talk and seemed unable to take their leave. The 
Prophet, anxious to join his new wife, pretended to 
rise but no one followed his example. Finally, when 
he did rise, everyone departed except three persons. 
Their presence prevented the Prophet from con- 
summating his marriage. After each wedding-feast 
it was his custom to visit each one of his other wives 
to exchange compliments and good wishes. As he 
had been so delayed by the three bores, he set out at 
once on this round, beginning with 'Aisha. 

" The greeting and the mercy of God be yours, 
O tenants of the house ! " 

" And yours, the greetings and Mercy of God ! 
How do you like your new wife ? May God 
bless you ! " 

When he had saluted all his wives in this fashion 
this time he was unable to reply to them the Prophet 
returned to Zainab's quarters. But the three men 
were still there gossiping and drinking unfermented 
date wine. Mahomet timidly said nothing and went 
back to wait with 'ATsha until these people, having at 
la& seen him go out, realized their indiscretion and 
withdrew. Anas ben Malik ran to inform his master 
of their departure and Mahomet at once went into 
the chamber where Zainab was waiting, letting drop 
the stuff of the door-curtain between himself and Anas 
who was following on. The enervation caused by this 

273 T 


mishap no doubt induced a tate of trance, for the 
Prophet immediately had the revelation of the verse 
of " the Curtain " : 

O true believers, enter not the houses of the prophet, unless it be 
permitted you to eat meat with him, without waiting his convenient 
time ; but when ye are invited, then enter. And when ye shall have 
eaten, disperse yourselves ; and slay not to enter into family discourse ; 
for this incommodeth the prophet. He is ashamed to bid you depart / 
but God is not ashamed of the truth. And when ye ask of the prophet's 
wives what ye may have occasion for, ask it of them from behind a 
curtain. This will be more pure for your hearts and their hearts. 
Neither is it jit for you to give any uneasiness to the apottle of God, 
or to marry his wives after him for ever. (xxxiii, 53). 

The wives of the Prophet became the " Mothers 
of the Believers " ; they were not allowed to marry 
after his death. The Koran prescribed that they 
should remain in their houses, choose their words 
carefully, avoid luxury ; that they should pray, 
dispense alms, and obey their husband in learning 
by heart the holy verses. The harem thus came to 
be a sort of voluptuous and devout convent. 




We belong to God and we return 
to God, 

TN the sixth year of the Hegira (628) after the 
*- encounter with the Banu Qorai'dha and the 
marriage of Zainab, Mahomet sent a detachment 
against the Banu Bakr who were assembled on the road 
to Syria. The Mussulmans returned with booty and 
the enemy Sheikh as a prisoner. This Bedouin 
became a convert through their honourable treatment 
of him and served them by pillaging with such success 
from the Qoraishite caravans that Mecca, practically 
reduced to famine, was obliged to confide in Mahomet 
himself. The Prophet, very generously, begged the 
nomads not to starve his former countrymen. With 
the greatest political and tactical ability, he reaped 
the benefit from a series of campaigns directed as 
much against the Qoraishite commerce as against 
hostile tribes. 

After having chastised the Ghatafan who had 
stolen some camels, Mahomet was warned by his 
spies that the Banu Mostaliq had assembled their 
warriors ; he made a surprise attack on them, and 
cut them to pieces after a relentless battle of sabres 
and showers of arrows. Numerous prisoners, one 
thousand camels and five thousand sheep fell into 
the victors' possession. The women were also violated 
the night of the battle fruits of the flesh at the point 



of the sabre and the lance for the refreshment of the 

A reconciliation followed. Juwairia, the daughter 
of the Sheikh, fell a captive to the Mussulman 
warrior, Thabit, and asked the Prophet to help her 
buy her freedom. On seeing for the first time this 
beautiful Bedouin so celebrated for her gentleness 
and wit and whom " no one could see without loving ", 
'Aisha was seized with an unpleasant presentiment. 

" Can you wish for anything better," said Mahomet 
to Juwairia, " I will pay your ransom and marry 

To confirm this alliance and to supply a dowry 
for the fiancee, the Mussulmen released a hundred 
prisoners. El Harith, the Sheikh, his sons and several 
others of the Banu Mostaliq were immediately 

The return from this campaign brought complica- 
tions in its train. A dispute arose between the 
Mohajirun of Mecca and the Ansar of Medina over 
a well where they both thronged to drink. They 
were on the point of engaging in combat and the 
" hypocrite ", 'Abdallah, encouraged his countrymen : 

" If you fatten your dog he will eat you," he said. 
" We took these people in and now they are insulting 
us. They wish to be the masters in our very houses. 
But, by Allah ! when we get back to Medina, we 
shall see whether the noblest are expelled by the 
vilest ! " 

These words were reported to the Prophet by a 
young man. 'Omar wanted to kill 'Abdallah ben 
Obayy, but Mahomet was opposed to it. 

" What would they think of a Prophet who had 
his brothers-in-arms killed ? " And to conclude the 
incident he ordered the immediate breaking up of 



camp in spite of the torrid heat. They marched all 
that day and night and the following morning, 
becoming calmer as their bodies grew weary with 

'Abdallah's son, believing that his father was 
condemned to death, proposed to Mahomet that he 
kill him himself, for, as a good son and a man of honour, 
if another had killed Ibn Obayy, he would have been 
obliged to avenge his death. Mahomet was contented 
to publish a sura reproving the Hypocrites, but 
declaring that perhaps God would pardon them if 
they repented. Ibn Obayy's influence, moreover, 
began to diminish. 

"You see. . . ." said the Prophet to c Omar. 

The two adversaries observed each other without 
ever daring to engage in battle. Mahomet knew that 
the chief of the Khazraj would never be contented 
to obey him and that he only professed to believe 
in Islam by word of mouth. Ibn Obayy looked 
upon Mahomet as an ambitious importer. A 
remarkable occasion for vengeance presented itself 
to him. 

Each time that the Prophet went on a campaign, 
he drew by lot one or two of his wives to accompany 
him. This time 'Ai'sha was picked out. She travelled 
on the back of a camel in a closed litter. One night 
on its way to Medina the returning army, followed 
by its long procession of supplies, captives and 
thousands of beasts, broke up camp before dawn. 
'Aisha had left her litter to satisfy a natural need but 
returned to her camel hearing that the throng was no 
longer moving ; she noticed that she had lost her 
necklace of Yemenite agates. Returning in her 
footsteps she sought it for some time and at last 
finding the necklace, returned to her camel. But the 



spot was deserted. 'Aisha called aloud, but no one 
replied. The men, seeing the litter closed and thinking 
it occupied, had placed it on the camel and departed 
with it. As 'A'isha was only fifteen years old and very 
slight, especially after the privations of a severe 
campaign, no one was surprised at the light weight 
of the palaquin. 

The deserted 'A'isha decided to sit down, hoping 
that they would return to fetch her. She soon fell 
asleep. . . . 

" We belong to God and we return to God ! " 

'Ai'sha awakened with a start. ... A young man 
stood before her holding a camel by its tether. Safwan 
ben el Mu'thal, following the army in the rear-guard, 
had noticed this young woman asleep in the desert 
and, upon approaching her, recognized her as the 
Prophet's wife. 

" We belong to God and we return to God," he 
repeated with emotion, but saying nothing more. 

'Aisha quickly covered herself with her veil. 
Safwan adjusted his camel's saddle-girth and making 
it kneel, helped the young woman to mount. Holding 
the beast by the bridle, they resumed the road. After 
a long and tiring walk, they caught up at noon with 
the army ; when it was discovered that the litter 
was empty there was general surprise, and it was 
almost too much for them to see the " mother of the 
believers " in the company of a young man. 

This was a fine opportunity for the tattle of the 
gossips and the evilly disposed. Both Mahomet's 
and 'Ai'sha's enemies made the most of this incident. 

" Safwan is young and handsome," jeered 'Abdallah 
ben Obayy. "It is not surprising that 'Ai'sha prefers 
him to Mahomet." 

Hassan ben Thabit, the poet, and Mistah, Abu 



Bakr's cousin, were foremost amongst the scoffers, and 
the first went so far as to write satiric verses against 
Safwan. Hamna thought to render her sister Zainab 
a service by speaking against this wife accused of 
adultery ; for Zainab was really 'A'isha's rival. So 
recently married, she was the only one of the Prophet's 
wives who was on an equal footing with the favourite. 
Hamna insinuated that 'Ai'sha and Safwan had already 
met several times and that the loss of the necklace 
was merely a pretext for a convenient tte-a-te % te. 
Either through diplomacy or anxiety, 'Ai'sha fell ill 
after having been warned by Mistah's mother. 
Mahomet went to see her, but did not show his usual 
solicitude ; on the contrary, he asked her brusquely 
how she was. She begged him to allow her to go 
home to her parents. 

" Be consoled," said her mother. " All young, 
pretty and well-loved women are the butt of evil 

" What ! Is everyone talking about it ? . . . 
Does my father know ? " 

And she burst into sobs. Abu Bakr, who was 
reciting from the Koran on the first floor, came down 
and asked his daughter to come up to his quarters. 
Divided between his love and his uncertainty, the 
Prophet did not know what course to adopt. His 
memory recalled the graceful little daughter of Abu 
Bakr, the only one of his wives who was a virgin, 
whose impudent sweetness had charmed him in his 
maturity and whose gaiety had chased away so many 
cares. Before their marriage he had even thought 
of her in his dreams, and one night he saw an angel 
bringing him her slender little body wrapped in a 
piece of silk. He remembered how in the past he 
allowed his young wife to play with dolls and how he 



even played with her, and he reflected upon her charm, 
her childish and loving jealousy, and also upon her 
thoughtlessness ! He recalled how, one day, when 
seeing a man with her, his countenance had fallen. 

" It is my foster-brother ", she hastily said, recalling 
that Mahomet had authorized Hafsa to receive her 
foster-relatives, since giving suck was supposed to 
produce the same rights and the same prohibitions 
as giving birth. 

" Be careful," he had once specified, " that they 
are really your foster-brothers ; the fact that they 
have suckled the same woman two or three times 
is not enough to make them so." 

This agonizing condition of affairs having lasted 
for a month, no more divine revelations came to the 
Prophet. He consulted 'Ali and Osama, the son of 

" This sort of sorrow comes to many husbands, 
and, anyhow, there are many other women you can 
marry," said 'AH. (The favourite never forgave him 
for this.) 

But Osama had nothing to say except in favour 
of the accused. Following his son-in-law's advice, 
Mahomet questioned his wife's servant, Boraira. 

" I see no reason for reproaching her since she is 
very young and a little heedless ; sometimes she falls 
asleep while she is making the bread. I have not 
noticed anything happening. But," the negress 
added naively, " I hear that in her childhood she 
stole and ate a little piece of pie that belonged to a 

Even Zainab spoke only favourably of her rival.. 
The Prophet complained of his detractors from the 
pulpit, citing particularly 'Abdallah ben Obayy; this 
had provoked a violent quarrel between the Aws and 



the Khazraj. The powerful Khazraj chief, Sa'd ben 
'Obada, defended 'Abdallah and spoke against 'Aisha ; 
Mahomet intervened, pacified them and reduced 
them to silence. And he slill remained silent. . . . 

'Aisha wept continually. 3afwan swore that in 
his whole life he had never turned up the skirt of a 
single woman. Abu Bakr and his wife came the 
following day to visit their daughter and sat beside her 
in tears. One of the women of Medina also came in 
and wept. Mahomet entered and, for the first time 
since this incident, sat down, saying gently to his wife : 

" If you are innocent, O 'Ai'sha, God will absolve 
you. But if you failed in your duties, turn to God and 
ask his pardon. For whosoever confesses his fault 
and turns to God will be pardoned by God, who will 
turn to him. I beg of you, tell me the truth." 

" Are you not ashamed to speak of this before 
that woman ? " cried 'Ai'sha boldly, pointing to the 
woman of Medina and holding back her tears. Her 
father intervening, she asked him to reply for her. 

" I do not know what to say," said poor Abu Bakr. 
And as her mother also excused herself, the young 
girl engaged on her own defensive very energetically : 

" I know what they have said about me and I 
see that you believe it. If I tell you that I am innocent 
and God knows that I am you will not believe 
me. I am in the position of Jacob when he said : 
' Patience is mosl becoming^ and God's assistance is to be 
implored'" (Koran, xii, 18). 

Then she returned to her bed with the hope that 
God would clear her of this accusation. She could 
not believe (as she related subsequently) that a 
revelation would come to assist her, believing her 
adventure too humble for God to notice in his verses 
destined to be recited thereafter. (To-day this passage 



of the Koran is chanted in the prayers like the others.) 
All that she could hope for was that the Messenger of 
God would have a vision in his sleep which will 
exonerate her. 

The Prophet did not change his place and no one 
had time to leave before the revelation came to him. 
Great beads of perspiration stood out upon his face. 
When they uncovered him (they always covered him 
with a veil during the revelations) he was smiling 
and his first words were : 

" O 'Ai'sha, praise God, for he has exonerated 
you." The verses of the sura " Light " had been 
revealed to him, proclaiming 'Aisha's innocence and 
reprimanding her detractors. 

" Rise and thank the Messenger of God," said 
her mother. 

" No," said the young woman, " I shall rise to 
thank God alone." 

According to the passage in the Koran, those 
accusing a woman without four witnesses shall be 
punished with eighty strokes of the whip. Certain 
people who had not been too complimentary in their 
remarks were chastised ; the influential Ibn Obayy 
escaped, however. Abu Bakr resolved to withdraw 
an allowance he paid to Mistah, but a verse was added 
forbidding the well-off to make such resolutions. 
Hassan ben Thabit received a good beating from 
Safwan, who nearly killed him, but Mahomet, made 
peace between the two men and favoured the poet. 
Nor did 'Ai'sha wish for his death ; she pitied the 
blind poet and was grateful to him for having defended 
the Prophet's cause in his proverbs and satires. 
But one day when Hassan was singing love-poems in 
her apartments, she gave way just a little to a spirit 
of revenge. 



" Chaste and proud," he sang, " her light will 
never be put out by the least suspicion. In the 
morning she will rise without slandering her 
neighbour. . . ." 

'" Unlike you," said 'Ai'sha laughing. 

Later, when 'Ai'sha retailed this tragic episode of 
the necklace, she added : 

" They made inquiries about Ibn El Mu'thal 
(Safwan) and discovered him to be impotent. . . ." 

From that time on, 'Aisha seldom went on these 
expeditions. But once when she accompanied 
Mahomet and lost another necklace she ordered one 
of the soldiers to hunt it for her, delaying the army 
to such an extent that they had no water for their 
ritual ablutions. Abu Bakr scolded her severely and 
would have beaten her had he not been afraid of 
waking the Prophet, who was sleeping with his head 
in his favourite's lap. The necklace was discovered 
under a stretched-out camel. This incident was 
followed by a revelation authorizing the use of sand 
instead of water in emergencies. 

Later, when 'Aisha did go on an expedition, Hafsa 
went also. As a joke the two women exchanged 
camels ; 'Ai'sha was so vexed at seeing Mahomet 
ride beside the litter containing her rival that she 
climbed down at a halting-place and put her naked 
foot into the grass hoping that it would be stung by 
a scorpion. 




Accept women as they are with 
all their curvatures . . . 

A FTER the defeat of the Banu Qorai'dha, Mahomet 
<*. first married Rihana and then later another 
Jewess, Safiya, one of the spoils of the battle of Khaibar, 
whose husband, Kin ana, had been killed. Mahomet 
gave Safiya her liberty as a dowry and married her 
on the way back to Medina after the necessary period 
of mourning had elapsed. For the wedding-feast, 
Anas prepared a hats a of butter, cheese and dates, 
for they had no bread or meat. It would seem that 
Mahomet was not in love with this handsome Jewess 
for very long. People were asked not to remind her 
of her race and she was advised to say : 

" Aaron was my father, Moses my uncle, and 
Mahomet is my husband." 

One day when her slate of health delayed the end 
of a pilgrimage, he did not hesitate to call her " a 
sterile, ill-omened woman ". 

Ramla, known as Omm Habiba, was Abu Sofyan's 
daughter and the widow of 'Obaidallah, the Christian 
hanif who had emigrated from Abyssinia. Mahomet 
married her by procuration in the States of the Negus 
who, they say, paid a dowry of four hundred gold 
dinars in consideration of Mahomet's Prophetic 
calling. Being no longer young her status in the 
harem was not important, but her marriage, apart from 



giving an honourable position to the widow of a 
well-known man, was useful because it brought 
together the Prophet and her father. 

" There is no bit strong enough to hold in the 
lascivious camel," cried Abu Sofyan when he heard 
of his enemy's marriage with his daughter. 

After this Mahomet married Maimuna, El ' Abbas 's 
sister-in-law, which established an excellent relation- 
ship between the Prophet and her nephew, Khalid 
ben el Walid, the distinguished general. Mahomet 
wedded two other women, but these marriages were 
never consummated ; for the one showed symptoms 
, of an illness resembling leprosy and the other, a high- 
born Bedouin of a defeated tribe, was overcome with 
sudden pride when he wanted to take her. 

" Should a queen give herself to one of the people ? 
I come from a tribe which receives everything and 
gives nothing. I ask God to protect me against you." 

" You are invoking an all-powerful being," said 
the Prophet, and returned her to her family after 
dressing her in fine linen. 

He had two or three concubines as well, the most 
important being Maria, the Copt, a gift from the 
Moqawqis of Egypt. She bore him a son, Ibrahim, 
who did not live long ; the death of this male heir 
was a great sorrow to Mahomet, who, with his own 
hands, buried the little body in the tomb, weeping 
copiously. That very day an eclipse occurred and the 
people said it was a sign of mourning, although 
Mahomet was open-minded enough to refute this 
pretty superstition, saying ^ 

" The heavenly bodies do not wear a veil for the 
death of any human creature " words which an 
impostor would not have said. 

Maria's sister, Shirin, he gave to Hassan, the poet. 



With Maria, the Moqawqis had sent an eunuch, 
Mihran, as well, who remained to serve her. 
Mahomet, being suspicious about this slave, sent 'AH 
with the order to kill him if his doubts were correct. 
Seeing 'AH with sabre in hand, Mihran fled. But 
'Ali caught him. 

" What have I done ? " And the eunuch, lifting 
his tunic, removed all suspicion. 

Several women who offered themselves to the 
Prophet without a dowry aroused 'Aisha's jealousy. 

" How dare a woman offer herself like that ? " 
she said. But the Koran gave permission to the 
Prophet, and 'Ai'sha remarked, not without a certain 
amount of irony and bitterness : 

" I do not deny that God makes haste to satisfy 
your desires." 

'Ai'sha was a spoilt, flirtatious child ; she loved 
luxury and money (later, she went into the business 
of slave-trading) ; she was ambitious (her enterprises 
just fell short of overthrowing Islam) ; and she was 
authoritative and hard (she cut off the hand of a slave 
who stole a half-dinar). In spite of her grace, her 
charm and her wit, she led her husband a hard life. 
A collection of anecdotes were composed to show 
that the women of the Tai'm clan her clan possessed 
particularly disagreeable natures and dominated their 

Jealousy even carried 'Aisha to the past ; she could 
not bear Mahomet's eulogies on the memory of the 
former faithful companion of his life. 

" But wasn't Khadija an old woman ? " said the 
young beauty. " Have you not something better 
now ? " 

" God never gave me a better wife ! " cried the 
Prophet. " When I was poor she enriched me ; when 



all the world treated me as a liar and abandoned me, 
she believed in me and comforted me." 

" There never seems to have been another woman 
in the world but Khadija 1 " said ' Ai'sha, when 
Mahomet sent some joints of mutton to the dead 
woman's friends. And one day, Hala, Khadija's 
sister, happened to come to Medina. 

" O my God ! It is Hala," cried the Prophet, 
troubled at hearing in Hala's voice the same tone 
as his former wife's. 

" Why are you always dragging in these old 
Qoraishites, those toothless victims of age ? " 
grumbled Abu Bakr's daughter. Mahomet treated 
this unruly child paternally for he was very indulgent 
to the weaknesses of the female character when they 
were not carried too far. 

" It is woman's nature to be jealous, and when 
jealousy dominates her she is unable to distinguish 
the true course of a stream. We must excuse her," 
said he to Abu Bakr one day when 'Ai'sha was so 
insolent to her husband that her father slapped her. 

He was dining with ' Ai'sha once when another of 
his wives sent in some delicacies by a servant ; she 
struck the servant's hand and the plate fell and broke. 
Mahomet picked up the pieces calmly, collected the 
delicacies and said to the guests : 

" Your mother is jealous. . . ." And he had a 
new plate brought to replace the broken one. Once 
when he was ill he remarked to his young wife : 

" Would you not rather die before me and know 
that I would bury you ? " 

" I should like that well enough if I did not think 
that upon returning from my funeral you would 
console yourself with another woman." He smiled. 

His preference for Abu Bakr's daughter was well 



known. Some of his friends chose a day when he 
was with her to make her a present. Certain others 
of his wives sent Omm Selma to complain, but he 
turned his back without replying, allowing them to 
come back twice with the same objection, when he 
said : 

" Do not torment me about ' Ai'sha. If the revelation 
comes to me when I am in the skirts of a woman it 
is only in hers." Omm Selma and her conspirators 
finally resorted to more serious means and sent 
Fatima herself to ask him to show impartiality. 

" My dear child," he replied, " do you riot love 
what I love ? " 

" Yes, surely," was all that the timorous Fatima 
could say ; she refused to speak again to him on the 
subject. So they sent the beautiful Zainab, who said 
in a very loud voice : 

" Your wives ask you to show impartiality and not 
to favour the daughter of Abu Bakr." 

Her voice was so strident that 'Ai'sha, who was 
sitting a little apart, heard her. Mahomet turned to 
see how she took it. The favourite rose to the occasion 
so well that, after a spectacular speech, Zainab was 
reduced to silence. 

"Ah ! " cried Mahomet, with a certain admiration 
" she is certainly Abu Bakr's daughter." 

In order to please and not be repudiated by him 
the elderly Sawda, and the Jewess, Safiya, gave up 
their days to the favourite, for a husband was supposed 
to divide his time equally between each of his wives. 
But occasionally, the Prophet grew really weary of the 
quarrels in his harem. 

" Hell is inhabited by women," he said. " Beware 
of their intrigues." 

" Of course," replied 'Aisha, confident of her , 



power, " woman is a Stubborn steed. . . ." Abu 
Bakr often intervened and tried to reason with his 
daughter, always with a view, however, to the private 
interests and ambitions of his family. 

Actually, the harem was divided into two factions : 
on the one hand, 'Ai'sha and Hafsa, the daughters 
of Abu Bakr and 'Omar, the Prophet's aids ; this 
faction was assured of the sympathy of Sawda and 
Safiya, so little loved by their husband : on the 
other hand, Omm Selma, the beautiful Zainab and 
the other wives. The plebeians of Tai'm and of 'Adi 
were opposed to the old aristocracy of Mecca. 

Did Abu Bakr and 'Omar hope to succeed their 
son-in-law ? It is said that they were in agreement 
with Abu 'Obai'da to divide the power successively 
after Mahomet's death, which they succeeded in 
doing. They managed, through their daughters, to 
have a powerful influence counterbalancing that of 
'Ali and Fatima. 

The Makhzumite, Omm Selma, as we know, had 
warned the Prophet of her jealous nature ; he had 
replied by saying that he would pray God to uproot 
this tendency from her heart. It happened that her 
jealousy was put to a severe test and she was the 
cause of several dramatic scenes. One night when 
Mahomet went into 'Ai'sha's room and was beginning 
to caress her, he did not notice Omm Selma's presence, 
even though 'Ai'sha had tried to inform him by signs 
that she was there. The Makhzumite burst forth 
with : 

" I see that your other wives are nothing in your 
eyes." And she started to abuse the favourite. 

" Well, answer her 1 " said Mahomet to 'Ai'sha 
after vainly trying to calm Omm Selma. Abu Bakr's 
daughter was not at a loss. In the quarrels between 

289 u 


the mothers of the faithful she always had the upper 
hand, the traditionalisms gravely tell us, and she soon 
reduced the Makhzumite to silence. Finding, 
moreover, that the Prophet was too attentive to the 
'Ali-Fatima household, her treatment of them became 
insolent. Omm Selma was eager to let Mahomet's 
daughter and son-in-law know that 'Aisha had spoken 
of them in an offensive manner. 'Ali sent his wife 
to protest. 

" By the Master of the Ka'ba, yes ! 'Ai'sha is 
your father's best-beloved," replied the Prophet. 

And 'Ali, in the face of so much cynicism, went 
to the Prophet himself. 

"Is it not enough for us to have been insulted by 
'Ai'sha ? " he said. "Is it necessary for you to tell 
Fatima that she is your best-beloved ? " 

So, to avoid further recriminations, the Prophet 
had the door leading from his apartments to those 
of his daughter sealed. 

"When the Prophet is ill," said 'Omar, "his 
wives mop their eyes reddened with tears, but when he 
returns to health again, they seize him by the throat." 

Mahomet, they say, loved honey very much. One 
day his wives discovered that he remained for a 
longer time than usual drinking with Zainab. 
Wishing to play with him, 'Ai'sha arranged with the 
others to say to him, as she did : 

" Have you been eating maghafir (the strong- 
smelling gum of the 'or/of) ? " 

" No," he replied, suspecting nothing. 

" How is it that you exhale such a strong odour ? " 
persisted 'Ai'sha. 

" I only drank honey with Zainab." 

" The bees that made the honey must have pilfered 
from the '0r/o/-." 



" I shall not begin again. ..." 

All his wives said the same thing to him and with 
such success that the next time 'Aisha offered him 
honey, he did not dare to eat it. Sawda wondered if 
the joke had not been carried a little too far. 

" We have actually deprived him of honey ", she 

" Be quiet. . . .," ordered 'Aisha. 

Things went from bad to worse. Another time 
Mahomet spent with Maria a night which belonged 
to Hafsa, who discovered him in the arms of the Copt 
and reproached him so slernly that he promised to 
forego Maria for ever on condition that Hafsa did 
not brawl it about. But Hafsa was not able to keep 
the secret long. Her friend 'Aisha and her mother 
soon knew all about it. 

That same day 'Omar and his wife had a discussion. 
Besides having an authoritative and rather passionate 
temperament, his ideas on the female were those of 
the ancient Qoraishites. His wife had given him 
some advice and he had quickly put her in her place. 

" What has come over you ? Attend to what 
concerns you." 

" You astonish me," said his wife. " You do not 
want me to say a word to you when your daughter 
does not hesitate to reply to God's Messenger who 
has passed many a day a prey to anger because of 
her. . . . Why even now she is at variance with 

" She shall be well punished," cried 'Omar, and, 
seizing his cloak, he hastened to Hafsa's apartment. 

" By Allah, yes ! We answer him back," replied 
Hafsa to her father. 

" I warn you againsl: God's punishment and the 
wrath of his Prophet. Do not allow yourself to be 



influenced by the person who delights in her beauty 
and in the Prophet's love for her." 

After this allusion to 'Aisha, he next went to call 
upon Omm Selma, his kinswoman. 

" The way you mix into everything astonishes me, 
'Omar," she said, " and now you are actually meddling 
between the Messenger of God and his. wives ! " 
Although 'Omar went home a little calmed, he was 
none the less certain of the grave outcome of the 
existing circumstances. For really the harem was 
in a great state of confusion. The other wives all 
united against Maria and the Prophet, who tried to 
find a means of quelling this revolt and reproached 
Hafsa with her impudence. He replied to this 
strike by a lock-out, shutting himself up in a turret 
at the top of the house. 

'Omar lived in the Awali district of the outskirts. 
In the middle of the night a neighbour, upon returning 
from the town, knocked at his door telling him that 
he had important news. 

" What has happened ? Are the Ghassanides 
attacking us ? " 

" No, it is still more serious. It is said that the 
Prophet has repudiated all his wives." 

'Omar hurried again to Medina to find his daughter 
weeping and completely overcome. 

" Are you repudiated ? " 

" I do not know. He is in his turret." 

The empty pulpit in the mosque was surrounded 
by the weeping populace. 'Omar sat down for a 
short time with them, then, not able to contain himself 
any longer, he went to the turret, asking a slave to 
announce his visit. The Prophet made no response, 
and 'Omar came down again. A second trial was 
no more satisfactory, nor yet a third. 'Omar was 



descending the Staircase when, at last, the slave 
called him and showed him into the Prophet's presence. 
Mahomet was stretched out quietly on a plaited mat, 
his elbow on a leather cushion; he was not even 
covered by a rug. The impression of the mat 
was visible on his hips. 'Omar, who was still 
standing, bowed, but the Prophet seemed not to 
notice him. 

" Have you repudiated your wives ? " 

The Prophet looked up. 

" No," said he. 

" Praised be God ! God is all-powerful ! " sighed 
'Omar, who began to retail the discussion which had 
just taken place. 

" Our wives," said he, " are no longer manageable 
since we came. They have adopted the habits and 
manners of the Medina women." And, seeing the 
shadow of a smile upon his friend's face, 'Omar 
continued : 

" If you could have seen me just now when I scolded 
Hafsa . . . Omm Selma even reproached me for 
meddling in the concerns of your harem ..." 

Mahomet could not keep from laughing. 'Omar 
sat down also. He noticed the simplicity of the room, 
only adorned with three sheep-skins and untanned ones 
at that. 

" Demand more prosperity for our nation. The 
pagan Persians and Greeks are richer than we are." 

The Prophet sat up. 

" O son of Khattab," said he, " those nations have 
received their rewards in this world." 

" O Messenger of God, it is true ; ask God to 
pardon me." 

The threat of repudiation was averted. Actually, 
Mahomet neither wished to risk the loss of 'Omar's 



friendship nor to be without his wives. He had only 
sworn to leave them for a month. For twenty-nine 
nights he slept alone in his turret. Verses of the 
Koran were revealed to him, reproaching him with 
too much compliance to his wives' wishes, when God 
had granted him such freedom in his relations 
with them ; 'Aisha and Hafsa were also severely 
reprimanded for being in league against their 

If he divorce you, his Lord can easily give him in exchange other 
wives better than you, women resigned unto God, true believers, 
devout, penitent, obedient, given to fatting, both such as have been 
known ly other men, and virgins. (Ixvi, 5). 

On the twenty-ninth day he came down from his 
turret and called upon ' Ai'sha. 

" But had you not sworn to remain for an entire 
month ? " she had the effrontery to say. " I can only 
count twenty-nine days." 

" This month has only twenty-nine days," 
he replied. 

He had been directed in the revelation to call 
upon his wives to choose between him and the 
world. He asked 'Ai'sha to consult her parents to 
find out whether she was to remain with him or 
to be divorced. 

" My father would never advise me to leave you," 
she said. 

All his wives, without hesitation, preferred to 
remain with him ; Mahomet profited by this general 
capitulation to call them to order and to put an end 
to the demand for finery and many other luxuries 
with which they had theretofore overwhelmed him. 
But he showed his gratitude by forbidding himself 
from that time on to marry any new legitimate wives 



(they already numbered nine), a pledge sanctioned by 
the Koran (xxxiii, 52). 

To us modern monogamous Europeans not 
acknowledging polygamy' unless it be clandestine 
and outside the family- the position in which Hafsa 
found her husband seems indeed strange for a Prophet. 
What shocked Hafsa was not the fact itself, but that 
the thing should have happened on a day reserved 
for her, thus breaking the harem rules. It does not 
appear, moreover, that her contemporaries had thought 
much of the shocking aspect of it. The scandal of 
Zainab was based on the violation of the law of 
adoption ; it was hushed as soon as the law was 
changed. What his followers mostly admired was the 
prowess of their chief. 

" We used to say," said Anas, " that the 
Prophet was endowed with the strength of thirty 
men." And the young servant related how his 
master had taken eleven women consecutively in 
twenty-four hours. Ibn 'Omar and 'Ai'sha bore 
witness to this. 

He imposed periods of chastity upon himself : 
particularly during the last nine nights of the month 
of Ramadan which he spent in spiritual solitude in 
the mosque. 

That Islam ameliorated the lot of women in Arabia 
is hardly to be doubted. " In the days of paganism," 
said 'Omar, " our women counted for nothing. But 
that ceased when God revealed what sort of treatment 
they should be given." 

"Amongst the faithful," said the Prophet, "the 
most perfect is he who" is remarkable in his mildness 
towards his wife." He advised women to be 
submissive to their husbands, but he forbade the 
husbands to x brutalize them or to marry young girls 


against their wishes or to extort money from them 
either by divorcing or threatening them. 

" Be charitable to the women sprung from your 
ribs. If you try to straighten a rib you will break 
it. Accept women as they are with all their 
curvatures . . . There is more merit in giving to a wife 
than to the poor or to the holy war ... When two 
spouses hold each other by the hands, their sins pass 
out of their finger-tips . . . Paradise lies at a mother's 
feet . . . The kiss that a child gives to its mother is as 
sweet as the one we imprint upon the threshold of 
paradise ..." 

The women of pagan Arabia had no rights of 
inheritance. " No one may inherit but the user of the 
lance, the defender of the drinking-trough and the 
driver of the herds." Mahomet was called upon to 
give judgment at the trial of some women whose father 
had died leaving his inheritance to them but whose 
male cousins claimed the rights. It was then that the 
verse giving women the rights of heritage was revealed 
to him. Their share was the half of that given to 
men. The Koran forbade the murder of daughters ; 
it is filled with reasonable advice on their behalf, the 
same as for orphans. Mahomet prohibited temporary 
marriages, the prostitution of slaves, and promised 
" a double reward to him who bought a slave, taught 
her, freed her and married her ". 

The Prophet allowed polygamy ; he could not do 
otherwise in the land of Abraham. He was far from 
advising it, however, and only permitted it when strict 
justice was shown, giving not one pin more to one 
woman than to another. Four legitimate wives was 
the maximum allowance, although in his own case his 
prerogative as Prophet gave him the right to more. 
He even permitted divorce, but always said that of 



all the unforbidden things, God liked it the least. 
Monogamy was not the law of nature, moreover ; 
even the Old Testament in its holy text did not impose 
it on the patriarchs. If it became the rule amongst 
the Christians it is because it was propagated in the 
Western world ; but in reality, the morals of Nero's 
subjects were no better than those of Abraham's 
and Jacob's. 1 

Be that as it may, the real question is whether legal 
and limited polygamy is preferable to the clandestine 
sort ; the answer will be different in each social group. 
The Mussulman system is fraught with serious incon- 
veniences, certainly ; and no one in the Orient, from 
the Prophet to the satiric poets, denied it. But it had 
the advantage of suppressing prostitution and the 
celibacy of women, so disastrous to-day. In spite of 
this, we would prefer Mahomet not to have given us a 
personal example of polygamy. 

At all events it is as false to say that in Islamic 
society, woman is stripped of her prestige as wife and 
mother as it would be to reproach Christianity 
with making of her a cursed creature and a source 
of sin. A visit to the Orient suffices to show us 
that family morals are very strict there and that 
they do not necessarily envy our women in short 

1 Cf. De Carries, V Islam, p. 109. It is a fact, concluded A. 
Reville, that " when we take into consideration the times and the 
country there is no reform more worthy or more fearless than that 
in which Mahomet showed his initiative in favour of women. . . . 
The Oriental woman owes much to the Prophet." The most 
regrettable thing was the sanction given to the concubinage of slaves. 
Montesquieu, Esprit des Loti (xvi, 2, 8, u, 12), wisely notes that 
polygamy and confinement of women were due in the Orient to the 
climate, to their sensuality, early nubility, and early ageing .... 
These things were really a remedy. " It is the climate which decides 
these things." ' 



skirts and bare arms, our factory-workers; and 
old maids. 

There, family love is no more unknown than 
spiritual love, and Islam is so far from disregarding 
this that we have borrowed from it many chivalrous 
and platonic ideals x of P amour courtois, of the gaya 
sienza and the dolce Stil nuovo. 2 

1 L. Massignon, Al Hallaj, p. 176. 

2 Referring to the troubadours and romantic poets of the thirteenth 
century (" gallant love ", " gay science ", " sweet, new style "). 





Have we not raised thy reputation for tkee ? 
Ferity a difficulty shall be attended with ease. 
When thou shalt have ended thy preaching, 
Labour to serve God. . . . Koran, xciv. 
Verily we have granted thee a manifest viftory. 

Koran, xlviii. 
Truth is at hand and error has fled. 

A FTER the failure of the united forces at the 
-** Ditch, Medina was out of danger and Islam 
could look forward more confidently to the future. 
Mahomet began to anticipate his triumphal return 
to the city which had expelled him six years before. 
Since his rupture with the Jews, moreover, he looked 
upon the Ka'ba, so much venerated by the Arabs, 
as the spiritual centre of his religion as well as that 
of the emigrated followers who longed for their 
native land. The Council of the Ten ElecT: (all 
Qoraishites) to whom he had promised certain paradise, 
concluded that he musl: put off the pilgrimage no 

Fourteen hundred ^ Mussulmans with seventy 
camels as sacrifices departed for Mecca during the 
Truce of the Holy Months. They left their arms 
at Dhu'l Hulaifa, only keeping their swords ; at 



the same time, the Qoraishites, uncertain whether 
their intentions were peaceable or not, sent Khalid 
ben el Walid with some cavalry to slop them. 

On a moon-lit night, Mahomet followed a winding 
course around the mountains, pitched camp at 
Hoda'ibiya within the limits of the sacred territory, 
and sent word to the Qoraishites that he was on a 
pilgrimage and not on the war path. He knew that 
Mecca, weakened by war and commercially 
embarrassed, only wished for peace. 

The Qoraishites sent emissaries to feel the way, 
the first to present himself being the chief of the 
Ahabish, who was favourably impressed. But at 
Mecca he was regarded as an unpolished Bedouin 
and was asked to resign. 'Orwa, the Thaqifite, 
having proposed his services, went to the Mussulman 
camp. The Qoraishites wished to appear indifferent 
about selecting a stranger, and to be able if need be, 
to disclaim him ; they hoped to sow dissension, also, 
amongst the Prophet's adherents by dragging out 
their negotiations as lengthily as possible. But 
Mahomet showed remarkable diplomacy on this 
occasion. 'Orwa tried to intimidate him : 

" You have collected a lot of ragamuffins," said he 
to Mahomet, " and you mean to use them to carry 
out your projects, whereas the horsemen of Qoraish 
are turned out in cuirasses of leopard-skin and they 
wager that you will not be able to enter by force. 
Are you trying to exterminate your people ? Your 
very friends will abandon you." 

" Go make love to El Lat ! " cut in Abu Bakr. 
" Do you believe that we would ever abandon the 
Messenger of God ? " 

The Thaqifite continued to talk ; at each new phrase 
he gripped the Prophet's beard and each time, El 



Moghira Struck his hand with the scabbard of his 

" Take your hands off the beard of God's 
Messenger ! " 

" And who is this individual ? " asked 'Orwa. 

" It is El Moghira." 

" Ah ! You are the rascal I recently got out of a 
scrape ! A fine world ! " El Moghira' s conscience, 
really, was rather heavy, for before his conversion to 
Islam he had killed and robbed his travelling 

" By Allah ! " said 'Orwa before departing, and 
looking the Prophet full in the face, " Mahomet 
cannot even spit but what one of his followers gathers 
it up to smear his face with it, and after he has washed 
they fight for his bath-water ! " 

This enthusiast was impressed, however, and told 
the Qorashites on his return : 

" I have been on embassies to princes ; to Caesar, to 
Chosroes and the Negus ; but I have never seen a 
sovereign so well obeyed as Mahomet." 

Two other emissaries received the same impression. 

Night came and five hundred Mussulman camp- 
fires flared up threateningly over Mecca. Mahomet 
wanted to send someone to arrange for their free 
access to the temple. 'Omar, without any very 
powerful protector there, did not dare to enter the 
city, but the distinguished Ommayad 'Othman took 
over the task. As he did not return after two days } they 
believed him to be killed and the Prophet, assembling 
his company under a tree, listened to their solemn 
promise to fight to the death. 

They were about to begin when a spy came to tell 
then that 'Othman /was safe and sound, bringing a 
plenipotentiary, Sohai'l ben 'Amr, an able diplomat 



and mailer-orator, sent to negotiate with them. Each 
condition of the agreement was weighed carefully 
and the Prophet very adroitly managed Sohail, who 
thought he could direct any enterprise. 

" In the name of God, merciful and compassionate, 
and of Mahomet, his Messenger ..." Mahomet 
began with a detached air. 

" Stop 1 " cried Sohail. " If I thought you were 
God's Messenger I never would have raised arms 
against you. Let us write according to the custom of 
our fathers : * In thy name, O God,' and you will 
take the name of your father, 'Abdallah." 

Mahomet gave in on this question of form in order 
to prevail ; but 'AH refused to write down the 
humiliating title. The Prophet himself took the pen. 

The treaty permitted a ten years' truce. The 
Mussulmans must return this time without entering 
Mecca, but they were permitted to come again the 
following year as pilgrims and remain there for 
three days. The Prophet obtained the Protectorship 
of the Banu Khoza'a, the rivals of the Qoraishites ; 
he gave up his project of assembling the Meccans 
who wished to become Mussulmans and promised 
to send back any amongst them who might escape to 
him. The clay seals were affixed and stamped ; 
Mahomet kept the original document and the copy 
was placed in the Meccan archives. In spite of 
several humiliating conditions it was a triumph for 
Mahomet to negotiate officially, as one power with 
another, with the city which had formerly banished 
him. He saw that the time was ripe but abstained 
from taking advantage of it too soon. His followers 
did not quite follow his artfulness in deliberating. 

The dissatisfaction of the Mussulmans was further 
provoked by a painful scene. A man was seen 



laboriously climbing the hill, dragging after him 
chains which he had just broken. It was Jandal, 
SohaiVs son, who had been imprisoned by his father 
because of his adherence to Islam. Now he had come 
to seek refuge amongst the Mussulmans. 

" He is the first you will return to us according to 
the treaty," said Sohai'l. 

Jandal displayed the marks of the brutal treatment 
he had been submitted to, showing his hands still 
cut with cords, all the while imploring pity of his 

" Grant me this as a personal favour," said 
Mahomet. But Soha'il was inflexible and threatened 
to retract everything. Mahomet gave in. 

The dissatisfaction of the Mussulmans increased 
when the Prophet commanded them to shave their 
heads in conformity to the latest rites of pilgrimage 
and to slaughter victims on the spot without going to 
the Ka'ba or to Mt. 'Arafa. He repeated the order 
three times before it was obeyed. 

" Are you not really God's Messenger ? " 'Omar 
ventured to ask him. 

" Surely, I am." 

" Are we not living in truth and our enemies in 
error ? " 

" Yes." 

" Why, then, should we allow our religion to 
be humiliated ? Did you not tell us that God had 
promised you to allow us our taw of around the holy 
temple ? " 

" Yes, but the time was not set. Next year this 
will take place." 

'Omar was not satisfied with this explanation and 
went to seek out Abu Bakr. 

" Is this man not really God's Messenger ? " 



" Surely, yes." 

" Are we not living in truth and our enemies in 
error ? " 

" Yes, without a doubt." 

" Well ? . . . " 

The army complained. No one carried out the 
orders of the Prophet who retired to his tent. At last, 
at the advices of his wife Omm Selma, he came out 
and himself set an example by sacrificing his camel 
and shaving his own head. His followers then imitated 
him ; they shaved each others' heads, almost cutting 
each other in their haste. And they set out on the 
road to Medina. 

'Omar, worried at his former audacity, rode in the 
van, trembling at the thought that the Prophet might 
be sent a revelation against him. During the night- 
march he was called to go to the Prophet. 

"It is the revelation against me ! " said he, very 
abashed, but obeying. 

" To-night," said the Prophet to him, " a sura has 
been revealed which pleases me more than anything 
since sunrise." And he recited : 

Verily we have granted thee a manifest viflory. 

Heaven had approved of his actions and con- 
gratulated him upon his composure. 

" Will there be a victory, then ? " asked the hot- 
headed son of El Khattab. 

" Yes." 

According to his treaty, Mahomet had to refuse 
refuge to any of the Meccan converts who, in con- 
sequence, took to the " Jungle " and formed companies 
to rob the Qoraishite caravans. These raids were so 
successful that the Qoraishites themselves agreed to 
abolish this article in the agreement provided the 
Prophet would use his influence to stop them. 



Mahomet's conciliatory diplomacy recorded a new 
success which put an end to the complaints. He 
diverted the martial ardour of his people against 
the Khai'bar Jews. Many of those whom he had driven 
from Medina had found shelter at Khaibar, an oasis 
on the road to Syria at a distance of six days' march, 
and long since prosperous through its rich Jewish 
population. Khaibar had become the centre for all 
the intrigues against Mussulman authority. It was 
thought that the Israelites threw spells over the 
Prophet ; one of his illnesses was attributed to a 
mischievous spell. 

The expedition was decided upon. Sixteen 
hundred men, two hundred of whom were mounted, 
advanced by a forced march towards the north, 
conducted by 'Amir who, at night, sang songs of his 
own composition in rhythm to the camels' mono- 
tonous tread. Some of the women of the Banu 
Ghifar went with the expedition to attend to the 

The horse of one of the Ghifari was close beside 
that of the Prophet and the man's coarse sandal scraped 
Mahomet's leg, hurting him so much that he struck 
the unlucky foot with his whip. The poor Ghifari 
grew very worried, fearing that a revelation would be 
sent on his account. 

The army reached Khaibar before dawn. The 
Jews who had come out with shovels and baskets 
were terrified and cried : 

" Mahomet ! Almighty God ! It is Mahomet 
and his soldiers ! " 

" God is greatest," said the Prophet. " Khaibar 
is lost." 

The invaders began by seizing the little properties 
on the outskirts and then attacked the more central 

305 x 


districts made up of so many fortresses which had to 
be captured one by one. They set to with rage 
because they were spurred on by a lack of stores and 
the knowledge that the Jewish houses were filled 
with grain and treasure. 'AH lost his shield but 
replaced it by a door which, they say, eight men could 
not raise. The principal and inner fortress at last 
yielded to the attack. 

Amongst the important prisoners were Kinana ben 
er Rabi', the chief of his tribe, and his wife, the 
beautiful Safiya, the daughter of one of the Banu 
Qorai'dha killed the previous year at Medina. Bilal 
was chosen to conduct this captive and another woman. 
He led them past the corpses of several Jews. 
Although her companion wept, scratched her face 
and tore her hair, Safiya remained impassive. Had she 
already conceived the idea of seducing her conqueror ? 

" Take this devil away," said Mahomet, re- 
ferring to the other woman, while reproaching 
Bilal with his hard-heartedness. And he covered the 
beautiful Safiya with his cloak to show that she 
belonged to him. 

The victors spoke of a chamber filled with gold, 
diamonds and pearls which Kinana alone knew about. 
The Jewish chief said that everything had been spent. 

" If anything is found you will be slain," he was 
told. And he acquiesced. 

A man, either a traitor or weak-minded, said that 
he had seen his master prowling about a certain spot. 
Upon searching, a little money was found, but much 
less than they had hoped for. Mahomet was weak 
enough (and it is hard to excuse him) to allow Ez 
Zubai'r to torture Kinana to force the disclosure of 
the hiding-place of the remainder. The holy war 
had ceased to be holy. Ez Zubai'r took one of two 



pieces of wood used for kindling fire and applied it 
to Kinana's breast, rubbing it with such force that 
he fainted, and nothing having been obtained by the 
torture, Mahomet ordered his decapitation. 

The vanquished were allowed to keep their lands 
which they alone could cultivate, provided that half 
the products were paid over. Later, Caliph 'Omar 
drove the Khaibar Jews into Syria, paying them an 

In one of the captured houses, a captive, Zainab 
bint el Harith, was serving them with roasted mutton ; 
Mahomet took a mouthful of his favourite morsel, 
the shoulder, but, finding its taste suspicious, 
immediately spat it out. His table-companion, Bishr 
ben el Barra', too polite to refuse, ate the poisoned 
meat and died soon after. And even Mahomet felt 
sharp pains in his entrails and had cupping applied. 
When Zainab was questioned she disdainfully denied 
nothing, and admitted that she had wanted to avenge 
the death of her father and at the same time test the 
authenticity of the Prophet's Mission. 

" I thought," she said, " that if you were really 
a Prophet, you would be preserved from danger, 
and if you were just a chief we should be delivered 
from a tyrant." 

Mahomet spared her (others say that he delivered 
her over to the vengeance of Bishr's relations) and 
celebrated his marriage with the beautiful Safiya. 
At the end of the wedding night, Mahomet came out 
of his tent and saw Abu Ayub still mounting guard 
with a flashing sabre. 

" I thought of you," said this man from Medina, 
" and feared this woman who has betrayed her father, 
her husband, her tribe, and in whose heart infidelity 
is still quite fresh." 



Safiya, throwing over the faith of her late father, 
became a convert to the conqueror's religion. The 
followers continued to regard her with suspicion, 

The Mussulman army seized the Oasis of Fadak 
and of Wadil Qora, as well as all the intensive Jewish 
centres of the region and returned to Medina loaded 
with spoils and glory. 

Mahomet entrusted his commanders with various 
secondary expeditions, thus forcing the submission 
of a number of tribes. Then he sent formal messages 
to foreign princes. Chosroes Eparwiz, receiving a 
letter inscribed : " Mohammad ben 'Abdallah, 
Messenger of God, to Kesra, King of the Persians ", 
flew into a violent rage because a vile slave had dared to 
place his name before his own, and tore up the paper. 

" God will tear up Kesra's kingdom in the same 
way," said Mahomet when he heard about it. 

The embassy to Heraclius met with a better 
reception. The Greek Emperor was then at Emessa 
in Syria which he had just re-conquered from the 
Persians. He read the letter, which said : 

" I call you unto Islam, O People of the Book ! 
Let us end our contentions ; let us worship but one 
God ; Let us give the name of our Lord to him 
above. If you reject our faith at least acknowledge 
us as Mussulmans (' resigned to God ')." The 
Emperor's first impression was that of surprise. He 
treated the emissary most punctiliously, and sent him 
back with presents and a very polite but evasive 
reply. And learning of the arrival of a caravan from 
Mecca conducted by Abu Sofyan, he invited the 
latter to come and clear up the matter. Questioned 
about the new Prophet, the Qoraishite bore witness 
to the character of his compatriot and adversary. 



" Did you make war against him ? " asked the 

" Yes." 

" Who was the viftor ? " 

" Once he was once we were." 

" Does he keep his word ? " 

" We are actually at peace with him, but we do 
not know how he will observe it." 

" What does he believe ? " 

" He asks us to give up the faith of our fathers, 
to worship one God, to give tithes for charity, to 
keep our word and to abstain from fornication." 

Abu Sofyan was impressed by the attention 
Heraclius gave to this master of Medina. 

" It must be," said he after this interview, " that 
Ibn Abu Kabsha (' the son of the sheep's father,' 
a bizarre nickname given derisively to Mahomet) 
is just becoming a worthy since the Prince of the 
Rum is concerned with him." 

At that moment, however, the Emperor had other 
things to do than to concern himself with any 
enthusiastic Bedouin or the raids of the Arabs. 

Mahomet also sent an emissary to the Moqawqis 
of Egypt, a vassal of the Emperor, who had become 
partly independent owing to the Greco-Persian 
rivalries. The Egyptian replied that he would consider 
the matter and sent magnificent presents : silks and 
honey, the ass Ya'fur, the white mule Doldol, the 
horse Lazlos, together with slaves, amongst whom was 
the lovely Maria and her sister, Shirin. 

The emissary sent to the governor of Bosra in 
the confines of Syria, was killed at Mu'ta by an Arab 
of the tribe of the Ghassanides, Christian vassals of 
Heraclius. To avenge his death Mahomet sent 
Zaid ben Haritha with three thousand men under 



orders to sweep Mu'ta with a dreadful invasion, but 
to spare women, children, the blind and the monks 
and avoid the destruction of houses and trees. But 
the Mussulmans ran up against a strong army of 
Ghassanides and some Greeks. As they did not 
know how to form squares they were routed by the 
enemy's cavalry. Zaid was mortally wounded and 
gave the standard over to Ja'far as it fell from his 
hand. Qa'far, 'Ali's brother, only just returned from 
Abyssinia, was celebrated for his manly beauty.) He 
heroically defended the emblem, having his two hands 
cut off before falling, with head split open and body 
pierced with more than ninety wounds from lances 
or arrows. The poet, 'Abdallah ben Rawaha, was 
killed also. And in the end, Khalid ben el Walid, 
the new convert, took over the banner, rallied his 
troops and had nine sabres snapped off in his hand. 

Night separated the combatants. The following 
day, Khalid, well-versed in tactics, pushed forward 
his troops at a number of points so that the enemy 
believed he had received reinforcements, and retreated. 

The army returned to Medina, piously carrying 
the body of Ja'far. The Prophet wept for the death 
of his three generals. He went to call upon Ja'far's 
widow, and taking the martyr's little son upon his 
knee, he caressed the child's head in such a fashion 
that the mother at once understood what had occurred. 

" His two hands were cut off," he said, " but God 
has given him two wings of emeralds and with them 
he flies amongst the angels of Paradise." 

And seeing the daughter of his faithful Zaid 
approach he leaned his head upon her shoulder and 
wept. They were astonished and he explained : 

" I shed the tears of friendship for the loss of a 



After this excursion which widened the Prophet's 
political horizon until then confined by the struggle 
against the Qoraishites or Hijazian Jews and the 
raids against the nomads, Mahomet turned his attention 
towards Mecca. The Truce gave him the right 
to go there that same year on pilgrimage which was 
called the " Visit of Fulfilment ". The Qoraishites 
departed, leaving the town almost deserted while the 
unarmed Mussulmans performed their devotions. The 
Prophet, without dismounting from his camel, made 
the seven rounds of the temple, each time touching 
the Black Stone with his staff. The faithful made 
the taw of on foot, accelerating their pace during the 
first three rounds to show that the " Medina fevers " 
had not weakened them. When three days had 
expired, the Qoraishites begged them to leave, and 
refused Mahomet's invitation to attend the celebra- 
tions following upon his wedding with Mai'muna. 

Khalid ben el Walid, the great general, and 'Amr 
ben el 'Asi, the soulful poet and the " child of Love ", 
were converted to Islam, discovering that all benefits 
would come thenceforth from that quarter. El 
A'sha, a Bedouin poet well known for his erotic songs, 
also manifested his intention of paying homage to 
the Prophet. 

" He will forbid you many of the things you like," 
said Abu Sofyan, " for example, love and wine. . . . 
You would do best to wait a little to see what develops 
following our agreements with him, or whether there 
is a possible war." So El A'sha decided to wait until 
the following year for his soul's salvation, and go there 
again when his wine-stores were exhausted. He died 
during the journey but not before he had written a 
poem proclaiming Mahomet the " King and mediator 
of the Arabs ". 


Now, the Qoraishites began to be extremely 
apprehensive about their compatriot's power. While 
the truce preserved them from an attack, the casual 
quarrels gave Mahomet a pretext for a rupture which 
he could have used. Abu Sofyan was sent ; he 
/banked upon the influence of his daughter, Omm 
^ Habiba, but recently married to the Prophet. The 
noble Ommayad's pride was put to a severe test on 
this errand to treat with him whom 'he previously 
had scoffed at and combatted. Mahomet was not 
pleased to receive him officially, observing in this 
application a certain weakening on the part of the 
Qoraishites. Abu Sofyan appealed uselessly to Abu 
Bakr, 'Omar and 'AH for intervention, and even tried 
to flatter Fatima by asking that little Hasan might 
be his patron. 

" He is too young," the Prophet's daughter 
answered coldly. 


Omm Habiba saw her father with the Prophet's 
permission ; on noticing that he was about to seat 
himself on a mat, she quickly folded it up saying 
that no idolater might rest on the couch of God's 
Messenger. Actually, in adapting himself to 
circumstances and preparing triumph for his dynasty 
in the future he was forced to negotiate secretly the 
approaching capitulation of Mecca. As Khalid ben 
el Walid and 'Amr had done before him, he now 
recognized in Mahomet a master of government, 
and was ready to acknowledge his superiority, not 
to say his technical ability. 

Ten thousand Mussulmans left for Mecca by 
circuitous roads and pitched camp upon the 
surrounding heights. The prudent El 'Abbas felt 
that the moment had come to openly adopt his 
nephew's religion. 



" You are the last of the Emigrants as I am the 
last of the Prophets," said Mahomet, not without 
irony, to the old usurer. 

'Abbas, wanting to prevent the extermination of 
his own people, rode out of the camp that night on 
the Prophet's white mule in hopes of meeting some 
woodmen whom he could send to Mecca to advise 
the Qoraishites to ask for the aman. 

Abu Sofyan, with Hakim and Bodai'l, had come 
out to see what these night-fires meant. El 'Abbas 
heard them speaking : 

" These are the fires of the Banu Khoz'a or of the 
Banu 'Amir," said Bodai'l. 

" They would not be so huge." 

" I never saw such a large company ! " 

At that moment the three Qoraishites were 
surrounded by a Mussulman patrol. 

" Woe to you ! " cried 'Abbas, appearing. " It is 
Mahomet with his followers, and the end of Qoraish ! " 

" What can we do ? " said Abu Sofyan. 

" If the Prophet lays hands on you, he will cut 
off your head. Get behind me. I will ask him to 
pardon you." Taking the Ommayad behind him on 
his mule, El 'Abbas returned to the camp. The 
soldiers stood to attention before each fire as the 
Prophet's mule passed by. But 'Omar recognized 
Abu Sofyan. 

" There is God's enemy ! " he cried. " God be 
praised for having placed him unconditionally in 
our hands." 

And El Khattab's son was already drawing out 
his sabre when 'Abbas firmly said that he would take 
Abu Sofyan under his protection while awaiting the 
Prophet's decision. Followed by the ruthless 'Omar, 
he spurred on the mule and rode into the chief's 



tent. Mahomet ordered him to put off the business 
until the following day. 

"Is it not time that you realized, O Abu Sofyan, 
that there is no god but God "? " he said. 

" I already know it," said the Ommayad. " Had 
there been another, he would have helped me." 

"... And that I am his Messenger ? " 

" I know you to be well-born, generous and wise, 
but my spirit is still unwilling to acknowledge you 
as the Messenger of God." 

" Submit, or they will kill you," warned 'Abbas. 
The Prophet was silent, however. 

Astonished by this unexpected gentleness and also 
forced through necessity, Abu Sofyan announced that 
he now professed the Mussulman faith, and no longer 
doubted that conditions would be favourable for his 
city. He received the promise of safety for anyone 
who sought refuge with him. And to impress him 
still further Mahomet reviewed his troops. Each 
tribe bore its own particular banner. When a 
guard of picked men clad in steel cuirasses finally 
marched past the Prophet, Abu Sofyan said to 
'Abbas : 

" This army is irresistible. Really, your nephew 
has become a powerful king." 

" Go home to your own people and tell them to 

Mahomet encircled the city, ordering his generals 
not to be the first to attack and to respect those making 
no resistance. Sa'd ben 'Obada, a man of Medina, 
who hated the people of Mecca, was deprived of his 
command because he declared that on such a day no 
territory was sacred. The Prophet, wearing his 
helmet, held the rear-guard himself and then, having 
joined 'Ali, who had planted his standard on Mt, 



Hajum, he garbed himself as a pilgrim and wound 
a black turban round his head. In the meanwhile 
Khalid ben el Walid with his cavalry entered at the 
opposite wing. A shower of arrows fell upon them 
killing two men. The enthusiastic soldier attacked 
them, but Mahomet's orders soon arrived to stop 
this butchery, and the dawn brought a new day of 
which humanity might well have been proud. 
Mounted on Qoswa, his camel, the Prophet rode into 
his birth-place. 

First he went to the Ka'ba ; forming a procession, 
he encircled it and then, asking for the keys, he 
entered and effaced the frescoes which he found there : 
paintings of Abraham and Ishmael holding divining 
arrows in their hands, angels in female form (for, 
said he, the angels are sexless). He struck down the 
statue of the God Hobal of the golden hand and also 
a wooden dove suspended from the ceiling. And 
after having prayed in the purified temple, bowing 
down twice, the Prophet touched each of the three 
hundred and sixty stones surrounding the Ka'ba with 
his stick, saying : 

" Truth is come and error is gone." 

And all the idols were broken in pieces. 

Then seizing the ring of gold on the door the 
Prophet rendered thanks to God who had kept his 

" How do you expect me to treat you now that you 
have become slaves through the force of arms ? " 
he said finally to his compatriots. 

" Our only hope is your magnanimity, O generous 
son of a generous father ! " 

" Well, go, you are freed," said the Prophet 
weeping, " I say to you what my brother Joseph said 
to his brothers : ' I will not reproach you to-day. 



God will pardon you, for he is the Merciful of the 
Merciful.' " * 

Bilal went to the top of the temple to call the 
people to prayer while Mahomet drank of the water 
of Zemzem from a goblet handed to him by El 'Abbas ; 
the goblet has been preserved by the descendants. 
Then he instated himself at Safa to receive the respects 
of the. populace ; each person filed past his seat, 
striking a bargain with 'Omar and taking -the oath. 

" God has transformed Mecca into holy territory," 
the Prophet declared. " No one may spill blood. 
God has only granted me this right for a single hour 
of a single day." 

A Khoza'i, having thought that he could satisfy 
his spirit for vengeance, was found guilty of homicide 
by Mahomet. He proclaimed a general amnesty, 
excepting six men and four women. Ibn Khathal, 
become a Mussulman, had killed his servant from 
Medina for not having prepared his dinner quickly 
enough and ever after he denounced Mahomet. He 
lived in Mecca and encouraged his two beautiful 
slave-girls to sing satires against the Prophet. He 
was found caught in the veil of the Ka'ba, and killed. 
One of his musicians also was put to death but the 
other one fled. Muqai'as, formerly Mussulman 
turncoat and guilty of a murder, was put to death as 
well ; likewise the poet Huwai'rith. The three 
other outlaws escaped death. 'Ikrima, Abu Jahl's 
son, fled to the sea coast ; his wife, having obtained 
his pardon, joined him as he was about to embark 
and persuaded him to return to Mecca, where Mahomet 
welcomed him. Habbar ben el Aswad hid for a long 
time, and then offered himself up at Medina to the 
Prophet, who pardoned him. 

1 Koran, xii, 92. 


'Abdallah ben Sa'd was the young secretary who 
did as he liked with the verses of the Koran dictated 
to him by Mahomet ; he fled from the wrath of the 
latter upon his return from Mecca and abandoned 
his religion. The Prophet, perfectly aware of the 
satire and mockery directed against him, was 
particularly angry with this man who had ridiculed and 
even undermined the foundations of his Mission. 
His mercy was put to a great test when his son-in-law, 
'Othman, foster-brother to the exile, brought back 
the exile, begging for his forgiveness. Mahomet 
said nothing. 'Othman was insistent. Inwardly 
Mahomet said to himself (as he afterwards admitted) 
that the culprit's head should be cut off. His silence 
saved 'Abdallah. 

The other three exiles were pardoned also, the 
most important being Hind, who had eaten Hamza's 
liver. When Abu Sofyan's beautiful wife came 
before the vanquisher with the other important 
Ooraishite women, Mahomet could only be 
magnanimous ; for he had received a verse specifying 
his treatment of Mussulman women who came to 
him to take the oath. He enumerated to the believers 
what was expected of them : 

'Thou shalt have but one God. 

Hind readily agreed. 

Thou shalt not Steal. 

" But how can a woman steal when she lives in 
her husband's house ? I only stole from my husband, 
Abu Sofyan, because he was very stingy and did not 
give me enough for myself and my children. But 
I was so discreet that he noticed nothing." 

" That is not theft," said the Prophet, smiling. 

Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

" A noble-woman not commit adultery ! " cried 



Hind boldly. Everyone knew that this pretty woman 
had had certain escapades. 'Omar, who had not 
long since received her favours, looked at Mahomet 
smiling, and the Prophet, who knew about the affair 
and noticed his friend's expression, gave him a 
knowing glance, but said nothing for fear that Abu 
Sofyan might hear of it. 

Thou shalt not murder children. 

" We brought them into the world, but you killed 
them the day at Badr ! " cried the Qoraishite woman 
at this. 

Thou shalt not present thy spouse with the children 
of a lover. 

" And that," broke in Hind, " would be so criminal 
that one cannot even conceive of it." 

Obey the Prophet in all that is jusl. 

" If we wanted to disobey you, we should not be 

Then the Prophet had a tub brought filled with 
water into which he and the women dipped their 
hands as they took the oath. 

The victor's soul was drunk with pardoning. 
There in his birthplace, realizing his desires, he only 
dreamed of winning over the hearts of his people 
through generosity as the Koran had imposed. He 
was, moreover, too intelligent not to take into account 
that reprisals would have been absurd. He gave 
Safwan ben Omayya, his cousin on the maternal side, 
a black turban to show that he was forgiven, and 
accorded this self-centred old representative of the 
pagan aristocracy a postponement of four months 
for the renunciation of his religious principles. 

When Abu Bakr's aged father came to call upon 
him, Mahomet said to his friend : 


" Why have you troubled this reverend old man ? 
I, myself, should have gone to see him." 

His affection for his country and his admiration 
for the Qoraishites' abilities manifested themselves to 
such an extent that the Ansar of Medina were uneasy 
about his policy concerning " the uniting of hearts ", 
which he resolutely established with regard to his 
old enemies. 

He would have liked to marry Malaika bint Dawud 
but 'Ai'sha's connivances put an end to that. 

On Khadija's tomb he passed moments of inerrable 
fullness in prayer, alone with the memories of this 
first confidant of his great project, at last realized. 

After having purged Mecca of idolatry a herald 
announced a command to all believers to destroy 
their household gods and forbade the burning and 
selling of statues Mahomet sent his representatives 
to cast down all the idols of the neighbouring tribes. 
'Amr ben el 'Aci cast down Sowa', the idol of the 
Banu Lihyan, at Rahath. Five hundred horsemen 
went to Dhu'l Khalasa to demolish the " Yemenite 
Ka'ba " ; they left it " ruined like a camel's carcase ". 
At Qodaid, on the coast between Mecca and Medina, 
'AH destroyed the temple of Man at the goddess 
of Death, perhaps and brought back with him the 
famous Dhu'l Faqar, a sabre placed as a votive 

In the land of the Banu Tayy, they cast down El 
Fals, a reddish boulder standing out in relief on the 
black slopes of Mt. Aja and which they adorned on 
fete days. Having captured the camp of this half- 
Christian tribe, they took prisoner the daughter of 
the chief, the celebrated poet Hatim, noted for his 
liberality. Mahomet freed her, and her brother, 
'Adi, became a convert. 



Khalid ben el Walid cut down the wood sacred to 
El 'Ozza at Nakhla, where mysterious voices had 
been heard, and then travelled to Dumat el Jandal 
where he cast down the statue of Wadd, the figure 
of a man armed with a sword, a bow, a javelin and a 
banner. With some of the tribesmen of Solaim he 
went to the land of the Banu Jadhima, who had 
previously robbed his uncle and a group of the Banu 
Sola'im. Khalid's one wish was to draw swords against 
them, although the Prophet had told him only to 
disseminate the faith of Islam. 

He questioned them brutally and massacred many 
of them after strangling others. Then he ravaged the 
country and even had the prisoners put to death in 
spite of the opposition of some of his own men. 

When the Prophet learned of these cruelties, he 
raised his eyes to heaven and bore witness to God that 
he was innocent of the blood spilled by Khalid whom 
he reproached severely. Then he sent 'Ali to return 
to the Banu Jadhima what had been taken from them 
and to pay an indemnity to the relatives of the victims. 





Have I fulfilled my Mission ? 

DURING the loth year of the Hegira the Prophet 
left Medina and set out towards Mecca 
accompanied by ninety thousand pilgrims from all 
parts of the peninsula. This triumphal journey of 
the aging man, worn firsl; by ten years of persecution 
and then by ten years of unceasing warfare, took 
place at the apex of his career both as an aposHe and 
a leader. He had made a united people of tribes 
perpetually divided by wars one against the other. 

He was accompanied by his nine wives carried 
in litters. Thousands of camels decorated with 
garlands and flying pennants marched in the procession 
on the road to sacrifice. The Prophet passed the night 
at Dhu'l Hulai'fa where he visited each of his wives 
in turn. In the morning after the Prophet had 
performed his ablutions, 'Ai'sha anointed his hair ; 
he then garbed himself in the manner known as 
ihram head, arms and legs bare, without cloak, 
tunic or trousers, with a piece of cloth about his 
body. And so, mounted on his camel he recited the 
solemn talbiya: 

" I am thine, O my God, I am thine ! There is 
no other besides thee ! To thee alone belong all 
praise, all majesty 1 " 

Mahomet might indeed have gone over the events 

321 Y 


of the past year in his mind, cashing a glance upon 
what had been accomplished. Although born to 
command he asked of his followers only the obedience 
due to the man who transmitted God's orders. 
Between the sole master of the community and 
the community itself the Prophet was only an 

" This man aspires to rule the Arabs," said the 
rebellious Bedouin chiefs. 

" The prophesying is over and the empire about 
to begin," said Abu Sofyan. But Abu Sofyan was 
still filled with bitterness. 

The Prophet forbade them to treat him as a king. 
While he did exact some of the attributes of king- 
ship, at the same time he led a simple, rustic life. 

" I am not a king but the son of a Qoraishite 
woman," he would say when the people made this 

He had acquired power, riches, and glory ; he 
possessed gold, spirited horses, innumerable camels 
and vast pasture lands ; he had wives and children ; 
he had all that formed " the ornament of earthly 
existence ". But he was not made haughty by these 
things. One sincere conversion to Islam brought 
him greater joy than the richest booty. But a secret 
sorrow troubled his soul : the inability of many to 
understand the real meaning of his message and his 
helplessness before the hypocrisy of those who had 
come over to him only because he was the stronger., 
Perhaps, too, there was a touch of sadness, a touch 
of remorse for the inevitable impurity that creeps into 
all politics, all wars and all governments of this earth. 

One day while the faithful were dividing the tribute 
of the tribes of Bahrain, Mahomet saw 'Abbas 
loading his cloak with gold by the handful until it 



was too heavy for him to lift. When he asked for 
help Mahomet refused it, and the old man regretfully 
withdrew some of the gold. With what contempt 
Mahomet looked after his uncle as the latter staggered 
off with his burden ! 

The Arabs, after having taken part in the struggle 
between Medina and Mecca chiefly as mere spectators, 
finally sided with the conqueror. He received the 
tribal deputations under the huge, red tent set up 
on important occasions in the courtyard of the 
mosque ; but many of them paid homage to the 
master of Medina rather than to the Apostle of Allah. 
The Christians of Najran came to discuss the Scriptures 
with him, agreeing to pay tribute to him at the same 
time that they held to their own belief. Those who 
submitted paid only the tithe for the poor. For a 
long time the Banu Tamim remained sceptical, 
making fun of the " good news ", but they became 
converts after the poetic war of words in which their 
bards admitted defeat, although they counted amongst 
them the brilliant young 'Amr ben el Ahtam, so 
handsome that he was called " the painted one ". 
Ka'b ben Zuhai'r, who had been banished for his 
satires, was again received into favour, thanks to a 
famous poem in which he called Mahomet " the Sword 
of Allah". 

" No, the Light of Allah," corrected Mahomet, 
as he handed him his green cloak. 

In order to appease the rapacity of the conquerors, 
which had not been satisfied by the taking of Mecca, 
Mahomet aided by the new converts made war 
against the Hawazin, who had allied themselves with 
the Thaqifites of Taif, upon the advice of Dorai'd, 
a hundred-year-old, blind Bedouin, whose emaciated 
body was carried about in a litter. Attacked in a 



narrow pass, the Moslem army was almost hewn 
into pieces. 

" They will flee like that straight into the sea," 
said Abu Sofyan. " Mahomet's power has reached 
its end." 

But Mahomet was saved by the powerful voice of 
El 'Abbas rallying the troops. The Hawazin camp 
was taken. 

Young Rabi'a ben Rafi', thinking that he would 
find a pretty woman in a closed litter on a camel's 
back, drew aside the curtains. He was enraged to 
find only old Dorai'd inside. He smote him, breaking 
his sword in two, whereupon the old man said proudly : 

" Take my sword ; it is better than yours ! " 
The old man's sword hung from the pommel of his 
saddle. The furious young man seized it and cut 
off Dorai'd's head. 

After the battle there was the orgy. The Mussul- 
mans threw themselves upon the female captives 
both married and unmarried. In an emaciated old 
Bedouin woman Mahomet recognized the daughter 
of his wet-nurse, and she showed him a scar left by 
a bite he had given her while they were playing 
together as children. He treated her with kindness. 

They besieged Tai'f for twenty days, but neither 
assaults, battering-rams nor catapults (used for the 
first time) had any effect on the city ; so they divided 
the spoils : six thousand captives, four thousand 
ounces of silver, twenty-four thousand camels, and 
innumerable sheep. The heart of the Prophet was 
filled with bitterness and disgust as he viewed the 
scenes of unbridled greed that followed, for the souls 
of these people had nevertheless remained coarse. 
So great was the rush that Mahomet himself lost 
his cloak in the scuffle. 



Plucking a hair from a camel, he said : 

" O people, of all the booty and of this single 
hair only one-fifth comes to me, and even of that 
one-fifth I am but the warehouse." 

He distributed his share amongst the new Meccan 
converts " in order to win over their hearts ". 
Mo'awia, the son of Abu Sofyan, the future caliph, 
received a hundred camels. He became one of the 
Prophet's secretaries. 

A delegation of Hawazin asked the restitution of 
their goods or, failing that, at least the release of their 
captive families. As for himself, the Prophet agreed 
and tried to make the others follow his example. 
Thus came about the conversion of the Hawazin, 
who became his allies against the Thaqifites of Tai'f. 
Then murmurs arose amongst the Ansar^ who com- 
plained of being cast aside when they had been some 
of the first of the faithful. Mahomet pacified their 
anger by a speech and brought tears into their eyes. 

" Were you not divided amongst yourselves," he 
said, " when I brought you peace ? Were you not 
lost in error when I showed you the right road ? 
Were you not poor and have I not made you rich ? 
As for myself, when they treated me as a liar, you 
believed in me. When I was a fugitive you welcomed 
me. Do you think I could forget all that ? These 
others pasture the sheep, but you it is myself that 
you pasture. I give them earthly things with which 
to satisfy their earthly souls. But as for you, if all 
the world went one way and you the other, I would 
go with you." 

Finally the idolatrous city of Tai'f capitulated. Abu 
Sofyan and El Moghira struck down the goddess 
El Lat and took her jewels while the Thaqifite women 
wailed aloud. 



Then, in spite of his age and infirmities, in spite 
of the murmurs of the people and the withdrawal 
of 'Abdallah ben Obayy and the " Hypocrites ", the 
Prophet led an army of thirty thousand men against 
the Syrian frontiers in the midst of summer. 

" If the heat of summer is scorching, the fires of 
hell will burn even more," he said. 

This was an unfortunate idea. The crossing of 
the desert was very difficult. The narrow ravines of 
parched rocks were still haunted by the memory 
of the Thamudites, an accursed race. The men 
trembled at the sound of the echoes from the cliffs 
two hundred ells in height. Then a tempest of sand 
overtook them. Mahomet ordered his men to walk 
quickly and that night they camped without food or 
drink, after a livid sunset. The camels turned their 
backs towards the wind and formed a wall behind 
which the men sought shelter, crouching on the 
ground wrapped in their cloaks. One of them walked 
out of camp but dropped down asphyxiated ; another 
was swept away over a precipice. 

The next day they continued their march, exhausted, 
with red eyes, bruised feet, thick saliva, a buzzing 
in their ears and their skins cracked. They slipped on 
the black stones, tearing their flesh on the rocks shaped 
like tree trunks or evil demons. Some of them were 
delirious and their companions poured down their 
throats and rubbed on their chests the liquid found 
in the camel's stomachs. 

Clouds with flashes of red darting through them 
seemed held in the sky by columns of sand, fine as 
smoke. In the evening a black cloud spread out 
over the camp like a dome from which, at last, fell 
large drops of water accompanied by lightning. 
They were saved ! And several days later they 



arrived in a large plain of sand beyond which a blue 
line was distinguishable, broken here and there by 
a forest of green palms : the Oasis of Tabuk. 

After having converted several tribes and levied 
tribute on others, the Mussulmans returned to Medina, 
not daring to measure themselves against the more 
regular forces of the Byzantines. Perhaps, too, 
Mahomet, realizing that he was mistaken in his 
supposition that Heraclius was preparing an expedition 
against Medina (for indeed he did nothing to prevent 
the Islamization of the Arabs of the North), concluded 
a secret treaty with Heraclius. Mahomet, while he 
was less of an admirer of the Greeks than formerly, 
did not want to involve himself with them. He 
realized, as Ibn Obayy had ironically observed, that 
a war against the Byzantines was not as easy a game 
as a war against the Bedouins. He was satisfied to 
provide for the security of the frontiers of the new 
Hijazian state and to disperse the gathering of the 
border tribes. 

Such had been the most recent events at the time 
when Mahomet's career culminated in a solemn 
visit to the city of his fathers, now purged of all 
idolatry, for at the pilgrimage of the preceding year 
he had sent 'Ali to announce a most terrible sura 
promising at the end of four months a war for the 
extermination of paganism and the expulsion of the 
unfaithful from the sacred territory. Thenceforth 
the true faith reigned in all the Hijaz and even further. 
No army presented itself to interfere with the 
peaceful procession of the ninety thousand pilgrims. 
The Prophet was indeed in joyful mood. He 
overlooked 'Ai'sha's insolence and reprimanded Abu 
Bakr for having slapped his daughter and whipped 
a slave who had lost a camel loaded with provisions. 



He entered Mecca with a young boy seated both 
in front and behind him on his camel the children 
of relatives who had come out of the city to greet 
him. At the door of the Ka'ba, Mahomet made his 
camel kneel. The following days were most 
portentous, for the Prophet intended to establish the 
rites of the pilgrimage for all time. 

After three ablutions he performed the tawaf 
around the temple, kissing the Black Stone, and then 
made the traditional journey between the hills of 
Safa and Merwa with their ancient pagan sanctuaries. 
In the Mina valley he camped under a tent of woollen 
stuff at the foot of 'Arafa, six leagues from the city. 
It was on this mountain of granite, according to 
legend, that Adam met Eve after their long separation, 
and it was first Safa and then Merwa that the 
unfortunate Hagar had climbed hoping to find 
someone to save the young Ishmael before the angel 
had made the spring of water gush forth preserving 
Ishmael's life. Contrary to the purist notions held by 
some of the people of Medina, Mahomet found a 
way of sanctioning all of the old pagan rites so dear 
to the Qorashites by spiritualizing them and linking 
them with the Bible traditions. 

The following day at dawn after his prayers, the 
Prophet climbed to the summit of 'Arafa and preached 
from his camel to the assembled multitude covering 
the mountain-side and the arid valley, dotted with 
mimosas, with a sheet of white. Rabi'a ben Omayya, 
at the Prophet's side, repeated each sentence in his 
powerful voice. To the East, in the distance, a blue 
line marked the high peaks of the mountain-chain 
of Tai'f. 

On this most important occasion the Messenger of 
Allah wanted to engrave on the minds of his people 



the principles of Islam. He exhorted them not to fall 
again into the ways of error after he had left them, and 
to live as a united people. 

" I do not know," he said, " whether I shall ever 
see you again as to-day . . . but I have made it possible 
for you to continue in the Straight path." 

A wave of emotion swept the crowd. He ended by 
asking twice : 

" Have I fulfilled my Mission ? Have I fulfilled 
my Mission ? " 

" Yes ! " cried the crowd. " Yes ! " 

" O God, be a witness to this 1 " 

Amidst the general acclamation he began to descend 
the mountain side and on the way a revelation came to 
him with such violence that it threw his camel down to 
the ground. El Qoswa folded her knees and bent her 
head to the earth while the Prophet recited the last 
of the verses he was destined to receive. 

This day I have perfefted your religion for you . . . and I have 
chosen for you Islam, to be your religion. (Koran, v, 5.) 

The enthusiasm of the crowd was doubled, although 
Abu Bakr fell into a state of great melancholy, for he 
felt that these words announced the Prophet's 
approaching death. Mahomet then pressed forward 
not without some difficulty, calling the people to order. 
So that he could advance more readily he pulled at the 
reins so that his camel's head touched her flank. 
The last rays of the setting sun illuminated his head 
and shoulders, which dominated the crowd at his 
feet. Then the darkness fell and with it came the 
sadness which so often follows moments of great 

" Have I fulfilled my mission ? " Mahomet had 
asked. In truth, his had been a strange life since the 



visit of the angel in the grotto of Mt. Hira had taken 
from him for ever all quiet and peace. Those twenty 
odd years had sufficed to virtually transform the world. 
A seed had flowered in the desert sands of the Hijaz 
which was soon to regenerate Arabia and spread its 
tendrils as far as the Indies and the Ocean. 

We shall never know whether Mahomet, when he 
descended from the red peak of 'Arafa, foresaw the 
future of his people and the expansion of his religion. 
Was it possible that he visualized a united Arabia 
rushing towards the conquest of the fabulous Persian 
empire, of Syria and of Spain ? 

Now that these people had a supreme chief (no 
sayyid, not even the father of Imrou'lqais could have 
fulfilled this r6le), a common bond and a defined 
programme, the Arabs could embark on the great 
adventure and play a part in world politics. Lords 
in tatters, rude beyond a doubt, but at the same time 
not entirely lacking in a kind of refinement, they were 
ready to accept the legacies of the dying empires. They 
were not barbarous invaders like the ancient Germans 
and Vandals, but they were ready to play their part 
in history and capable of entering on an equal footing 
the arena of civilization. They arrived at the right 
moment to prevent a complete collapse. They took 
the flame from the weakening grasp of the Byzantines 
and the Persians and before the thirteenth century 
they presented to the world the most flourishing of its 
periods between the building of the Parthenon and of 
Chartres the Ommayad and Abbaside caliphates. 
Alone, they would have been, perhaps, only capable of 
destruction ; but they brought new vitality to the 
flickering light of civilization and replenished the flame. 

They succeeded because they deserved to succeed ; 
Islam triumphed because it brought a message that 



was needed by the Oriental world. Before the Hegira, 
the Mussulmans had endured persecution without 
defence ; later they put up a legitimate resistance 
and when they became vitors they practised tolerance 
to a considerable degree. The idolater was not 
allowed to remain on Moslem soil ; but the People 
of the Book, both Jew and Christian, by paying tribute, 
had a right to protection, could practise their faith 
freely, and were considered a part of the community. 

" He who wrongs a Jew or a Christian," said 
Mahomet, " will have me as his accuser." 

The Koran and the hadiths are replete with counsels 
of tolerance. The first Mussulman conquerors 
followed this advice on the whole faithfully. We do 
not see entire populations put to the sword and the 
mass conversions were sincere, generally speaking. 
When 'Omar entered Jerusalem, he ordered the 
Christians not to be molested, neither them nor their 
churches, and he showered favours upon the patriarch. 
When the patriarch invited him to pray in the cathedral 
he refused only because he feared that this might be 
used later as a pretext for seizing the church. 

What a contrast, we cannot help saying, with the 
entry of the crusaders, advancing in a river of blood 
up to the knees of the knights and the bridles of the 
horses, deciding to cut the throats of all Mussulmen 
who had escaped the first slaughter 1 * 

1 " Mahomet's partisans are the only enthusiasts who have ever 
united a spirit of tolerance with the zeal of proselytism," says 
Robertson (English historian). " It is indeed sad for the Christian 
nations, that religious tolerance, which is the great law of charity 
for one people towards another, was taught them by the Mussulmans," 
says the abbe Michon (Voyage religieux en Orienf). These judgments 
are a little exaggerated, for Christianity orders and often practises 
tolerance and Islam does not always furnish an example to be followed 
in this respect. " The Bible, the Evangel and the Koran are three 

33 1 


Later, unfortunately, came the Mongolian invasions 
which destroyed the irrigation system of Irak and 
set up red pyramids of decapitated heads, the militarist 
Turks whose very intolerance provoked the crusades, 
the civil wars begun by the Prophet's own followers, 
the cupidity, the despotism, the misunderstandings, 
the fanaticism all evil influences. 

" Our zeal," said Montaigne, " performs wonders 
when it is sustained by our hatred, our 'cruelty, our 
ambition, our avarice, our destructiveness, our 
rebellion ; but such is not the case when deeds of 
kindness, of benevolence, of temperance, are to be 
furthered . . . Our religion was intended to pluck out 
vice ; instead it breeds, nourishes and incites vice ! " 

Evolution is often only a procession of misunder- 
standings and intolerance. In practice the early 
principles became distorted. The social and political 
decline of the Moslem world went hand in hand with 
the forgetfulness of these first principles. But to-day 
the Mussulman peoples seem to be awakening. They 
are destined, perhaps, to play an important part as the 
connecting link between the West and the extreme 
East. They are perhaps the reserve strength of the 
old world. 1 But aside from social and political 

books that accord ; religious people sludy all three and revere them 
equally. Thus the divine teachings are completed and true religion 
shines throughout the centuries," recently said Sheikh 'Abdu. 
Unfortunately, few follow this example, and mosT: Mussulmans, 
even well-educated Mussulmans, have a repugnance for the Bible 
in spite of the facl: that the Koran (x, 94), prescribes the study of the 

1 " I will make him a great nation," is written in Genesis of Ishmael 
(xvii, 20; 13; xxi, 18). "Perhaps," says the abbe de Broglie 
(P rob I ernes de I'hifloire des religions, 1886), " the progress of Islam 
is the fulfilment of the promise made to the father of the True 



considerations, ought we not to try to understand 
to-day, more than ever before, the essentials of a 
reality that will not readily vanish from the face of 
the earth ? 

The next day at Mina, the Prophet threw seven 
stones against each of the three piles of masonry which 
represented the devil. Then he freed some slaves and 
sacrificed camels in great numbers. The multitude 
followed his example and the cries and death-rattles 
of the victims echoed in the valley flowing with 
blood. The animal about to be sacrificed stood on 
three legs (having been tethered by the fourth). A 
man approached with a hidden sword, which he thrust 
into the base of its neck. Mahomet then had the hair 
shaved off with a large, sharp arrow-head and it was 
cast upon the branches of thorny bushes so that it 
would be scattered on the people by the wind. 
Pilgrimage was over. 



THE DEATH (632) 

Mahomet is dead but God (may he 
be exalted /) live s for ever. 

TOO, have revelations from heaven," said 
El Aswad who lived in Yemen at that time. 

The Arabs were open-minded in matters of religion. 
In the course of a month all of the south-west of 
Arabia abjured Islam to follow this magician, 
El Aswad. He invaded Christian Najran and then 
entered Sana'a. At night by the light of torches and 
to the sound of barbaric music a multitude of beasts 
were slaughtered, while the public square flowed 
red with blood. Then El Aswad would put his 
ear to the ground to listen to the voice of his 
inspiring jinn. All the Mussulman officials fled in 
haste to Medina. 

Still another prophet, Musailima, stepped forward 
at Yamama on the shores of the Persian Gulf, 
conquering the south-east of the peninsula. He 
claimed that he received suras from the Angel Gabriel 
and he recited a curious hodge-podge of the Koran 
in which he described the Elephant with the large 
trunk and the little tail, and assigned to the soul a 
most humble habitation. There arose also a prophetess 
amongst the Banu Tamim ; Musai'lima disposed of 
his rival by becoming her lover. 

Was this the end ? Would the Bedouins abandon 
Islam and follow the imposters ? 



Musailima was audacious enough to write to the 
Prophet : 

" We are both Messengers of Allah ; let us divide 
the world between us." 

Mahomet replied that the world belonged to God. 
But he was too ill at that time to suppress the 
usurpation. El Aswad, however, was assassinated 
and his wife aided in the crime : attacked in his bed, 
he began to bellow like a bull ; but his wife said to 
the guards " Do not pay any attention to him for he is 
receiving a revelation." 

Just as his army was about to set out for Syria 
under the command of the young favourite Osama, 
the son of Zaid (whose leadership was imposed upon 
the army with difficulty), Mahomet was seized with 
a violent attack of the illness with which he had suffered 
for some time, due, probably to the drinking of impure 
water and to the poison of Khai'bar. He became 
delirious ; imagined that his enemies were trying to 
kill him by magic practices, and was subject to strange 
sexual hallucinations. During a nightmare, he went 
to the cemetery with a servant and congratulated the 
dead upon having found peace. 

The illness became even worse while he was with his 
wife Mai'muna, the sister-in-law of El 'Abbas. He 
remained there., seven days. Had he continued to 
tay there, the history of the world might have been 
different. A silent and sly, but bitter struggle took 
place at the dying man's side. 'Abbas, who had often 
been at the deathbed scenes of the Banu 
'Abdelmottalib, knew by his nephew's face that he 
was dying. He would have liked to keep him at 
Mai'muna's in the interests of the Hashimites but 
the other clan was watching. Abu Bakr and 'Omar 
had in their two daughters, 'Aisha and Hafsa, useful 



allies. As 'Ai'sha was the favourite amongst the wives, 
there was little difficulty in persuading the Prophet 
to go to her. They obtained the consent of the other 
wives each of whom gave up her " day " to 'Ai'sha, and 
so Mahomet, rolled in a blanket, was transferred to 
'Ai'sha's apartment. 

Abu Bakr and his daughter kept a close guard. 
Thereafter when the Prophet asked to see a member 
of his family, 'Ali or 'Abbas, 'ATsha went in search 
of her father or her brother, 'Abderrahman, the 
new convert. She helped him to pass his own hands 
over his body so as to exorcize the evil spirits himself 
and to feel the effects of his own baraka. She sent little 
drops of saliva over him while reciting talismanic 
portions of the Koran. She poured the contents 
of several water-bottles over his skin to calm his 
fever. A number of times he fainted, his head in 
her lap. 

" The poison of Khaibar is devouring my entrails 
and tearing at my veins ! " he cried, weak and excited 
through suffering. And he rolled on his couch and 
groaned : 

" There is no strength and refuge but in God. 
Ah ! death had its pangs ! " 

'Ai'sha chided him for complaining so much. 

" If we behaved like that," she said, " you would 
scold us." 

The prophet complained like a child when they tried 
to give him medicines. One day when he was enjoying 
a momentary respite, he went from his room into the 
courtyard of the mosque where the faithful were 
gathered together for prayer and, after having led in 
prayer (for the last time), he said : 

" If there is anyone amongst you whom I 
have caused to be flogged unjustly, here is my back ! 

33 6 


Strike in your turn. If I have damaged the reputation 
of any amongst you, may he do likewise unto mine ! 
To any whom I may have injured, here is my purse ! 
Speak without fear. It is better to blush in this world 
than in the world beyond." 

Then a man arose and claimed a debt of three 
dinars, which was immediately paid him. 

After having said prayers for the dead of Ohod, the 
Prophet declared : 

" God has given unto one of his servants the choice 
between this world and the one nearer to him, and that 
servant has chosen the one closer to God." 

Upon his return to his house, he freed his slaves, 
and seeing that he still had some money, he distributed 
it amongst the poor, not deeming it fitting to present 
himself with money before his Maker. 

On Thursday, the 8th Rabi* el Awwal, his illness 
increased in violence and the following four days were 
nothing but a long death-rattle, with intervals of 
lucidity and fainting-fits. Osama gave up the expedi- 
tion into Syria and came to see the person whom his 
father had so loved. Mahomet was able barely to 
make a gesture with his hand ; after this mute inter- 
view, Mahomet emerged from his state of apathy and 
cried out with great excitement : 

" Bring me writing materials so that I can 
write down what is to be preserved from error 
after me." 

" Pain is deluding God's Messenger," said 'Omar. 
" We have God's Book which is enough." 

Then a noisy discussion broke out in the room. 
They were divided in their opinions. 

" Go out ! Go out 1 " called the sick man. " How 
comes it that you dispute in my presence ? " 

In the mysterious dimness of death, what was it 

337 z 


that the Prophet wanted so much to record ? Was he 
prompted by the delirium of a dying man, or was it 
a moment of supreme lucidity ? And what were the 
interests that refused to grant his wish ? 

" It is bad, oh, very bad, to oppose the Prophet," 
said El 'Abbas's son as he left the chamber. 

Bilal announced prayer. At first Mahomet thought 
he could not preside and seemed disinterested. 
'Ai'sha and Hafsa suggested his delegating either of 
their fathers. He sent Abu Bakr. And then the 
Prophet was seized with disquietude ; he succeeded 
in performing his ablutions without losing con- 
sciousness and then, supported by 'Ibn 'Abbas and 
'AH, he went out. (Without a doubt these two 
Hashimites had arrived in the hope of counterbalancing 
the dreaded influence of 'Ai'sha and Hafsa.) When 
they saw him enter the mosque, the people applauded. 
Abu Bakr turned round and indicated his wish to leave, 
but Mahomet made a sign to him to remain and pray 
beside him. 

The following Monday the faithful saw their leader 
for the last time. Lifting up the curtain, Mahomet 
appeared in the doorway of his room opening into the 
courtyard of the mosque. His face was like parchment, 
but he made an effort to smile. The people rose 
in disorder but he signed to them to continue 
their prayers. They believed that he was improving 
in health. 

Azrai'l, the angel of Death entered the room. The 
death agony had begun. Mahomet lay with his head 
on 'ATsha's lap, she continually moistening his face 
with the water in a bowl near the bed. Finally, he 
sat up, raised his hand, and said : 

" Allah ! . . . Yes. With the companion on 
high ..." 



His hand dropped, his head rested against 'Ai'sha's 
shoulder. His soul had flown to the unalterable 
dwelling-place. 1 

1 Mahomet's death was a signal for general confusion. He had 
not determined the question of his succession. Several parties presented 
themselves : the Ansar of Medina on the one hand and the Meccan 
Mohajirun on the other. These were divided into (r) Abu Bakr and 
'Omar, the " right hands " of the Prophet and fathers-in-law as well, 
plebians, self-made men ; (2) the Hashimites, 'Ali, Fatima, 'Abbas, 
the Prophet's immediate relatives ; (3) the Ommayad patricians, 
'Othman, the Prophet's son-in-law, Abu Sofyan, his father-in-law, 
and Mo'awia. 

The Ansar, seeing in the occasion an opportunity of throwing off 
the yoke of their troublesome guests, united at the market-place of 
the Banu Sa'ida, under the presidency of Sa'd ben 'Obada. Frightened, 
the Mohajirun locked themselves in. Abu Sofyan was absent.. 
'Othman remained at home. 'Ali's friends sought shelter near Fatima ; 
the Hashimites had barricaded themselves in the death-chamber. 
Notified by his daughter, Abu Bakr came on horseback. Weeping, 
he kissed the face of the dead man. At the doorway he met 'Omar, 
who was brandishing his sabre and threatening to kill anyone who 
said that the Prophet was dead. The crowd also refused to accept 
the facL 

" If you adore Mahomet," said Abu Bakr, " know, then, that he 
is dead. If you adore God, know that God lives and cannot die." 

It was this attitude that saved Islam. 'Omar bowed before it. 
Besides, there was pressing business. Abandoning the body which 
had already begun to swell, the two disciples went to the meeting 
of the Ansar. Abu Bakr's coolness, in which he was almost alone, 
the division of the people of Medina, the absence of the Ommayad, 
the irresolution of 'Ali who was depending upon his own rights in the 
matter, made it possible for Abu Bakr to obtain the caliphate, almost 
by surprise, as it were, after a very adroit speech. 

" The death of the Messenger of Allah is not troubling you greatly," 
said 'Ali to him. 

The body lay neglected. Finally, the Hashimites washed and 
interred it, wrapped in three pieces of stuff and thirty-six hours after 
his death ; custom demanded that a body be buried the day of its 
passing. Abu Bakr and 'Omar did not go to the funeral. 'Omar 
Struck down Abu Horai'ra with a blow of his st, forced his way into 



Fatima's house and almost came to blows with 'All. Exasperated by 
/ these things, the daughter of the Prophet threatened to uncover her 
"S tresses in public as a sign of distress and of shame. 

" Prophets do not have heirs," said Abu Bakr when 'Ali and 
Fatima came to claim their inheritance. 

The poor woman died a few months later, spitting blood con- 
stantly. She declared herself happy to leave a world filled with 
iniquity where her rights were trampled under foot. 'Ali remarried 
many times, and was later elected caliph, after 'Omar and 'Othman. 

From then on there were bitter struggles amongst the followers, 
Sunnites against Shi'ites, Ommayads against 'Alids, opportunists 
against purists. The cunning 'Abbasides, the heirs of the uncle 
of the Prophet, finally put an end to the struggle to their own profit. 
The weary Ansar continued their role of sacrifice by devoting them- 
selves to exegetical and theological studies. 

Such was the struggle and anguish of the great saints of Islam ; 
a painful scandal to the believers who refused to judge them, seeing 
in them, perhaps, the results, on an all too human plane, of the 
inscrutable Wisdom of Providence. Thus 'AH and 'Abbas were 
eliminated as candidates for the succession the day following Mahomet's 
death ; and possibly the latter were too practised, the first not 
practised enough. Likewise was eliminated Sa'd ben 'Obada, the 
Amari, whose succession would have meant that Islam became a 
small local sect vegetating in the palm-groves of Medina. This was 
to the advantage of Abu Bakr, the firm ; he suppressed the Bedouin 
rebellion ; he paved the triumphal way for 'Omar the Conqueror. 




Aaron, 133, 248 

Abbaside Caliphate, 330, 340 

'Abdallah (Abu Bakr's son), 147, 

'Abdallah (Amina's husband), 

32, 5 

'Abdallah ben Abi Omayya, 128 
'Abdallah ben Arqat, 150 
'Abdallah ben Atiq, 216-18 
'Abdallah ben Jansh, 178, 179 
'Abdallah ben Jodh'an, 27, 30, 

3 J 4i, 7 
'Abdallah ben Mas'ud, 156, 189, 

'Abdallah ben Obayy, 167, 168, 

193, 222, 232, 234, 276-8, 

280-2, 326, 327 
'Abdallah ben Rabi'a, 102, 103 
'Abdallah ben Rawaha, 200, 237, 

'Abdallah ben Sa'd Abi Sarh, 255, 


'Abdallah ben Salam, 1 54 
'Abdeddar (Banu), 27, 50 
'Abdelashhal, 15 

'Abdelmanaf (Banu), 50, 75, 85 
'AbdelMelik, 255 
'Abdelmottalib, 27, 32-4, 47, 

5*7374 I00 I2 5 
'Abdelmottalib (Banu), 335 

'Abdel'ozza, 33 

'Abderrahman ben 'Awf, 29, 71, 
155, 156, 176, 188, 190, 191 


'Abderrahman (the poet), 147, 

I57> I9 1 * 33 6 
Abraha, 20-2, 25, 87, 247, 260 

Abraham, 36, 38, 92, 109, 124, 
132, 136, 219, 246, 268, 296, 

Abrahamism, ix 

Abyssinia, 7, 56, 58, 82, 100-5, 
107, 109, 117, 129, 269, 284, 

Abu 'Afak, 212 

Abu Ayyub, 6, 307 

Abu 'Amir, 223 

Abu Bakr, 4, 27, 40, 70, 71, 
81-3,95, 107, 128, 136, 137, 
145-8, 150, 151, 153, 156-8, 
165, 1,66, 186, 191, 192, 221, 
226, 230, 252, 254, 269, 278, 
279, 281-3, 287-9, 300, 303, 
338, 339 note, 340 note 

Abu Barra', 232, 233 

Abu Dharr, 259 

Abu Dujana, 222, 223, 229 

Abu Hoddai'fa, 50 

Abu Horai'ra, 159, 339 note 

Abu Jahl, 28, 80, 8 1, 85, 95, 
97-100, 128, 136, 181, 183, 
184, 187-9, 196, 205, 220, 
240, 316 

Abu Lahab, 30, 73-7, 80, 95, 99, 
126, 182, 196-8, 255 

Abu'l 'Aci ben Rabi'a, 202, 


Abu'l Bakhturi, 126, 183, 189, 
190, 196 

Abulfida, viii 

Abu'l Ha'itham, 143 

Abu'l Hur, 136 

Abulqasim, xii, 50, 61, 64, 65, 

Abu Musa, 234 

Abu 'Oba'ida, 208, 229 

Abu Oha'iha, 30, 177 

Abu Qa'is ben el Aslat, 1 5 

Abu Qohafa, 70 

Abu', 105, 197, 216-8 

Abu Sofyan, 18, 27, 28, 41, 58, 
76, 77, 80, 85, 94, 95, 100, 
105, 125, 176, 178, 179, 181, 
183, 185, 193, 195-8, 200, 

201, 208, 212^ 22O, 222, 229, 
230, 231, 236, 239, 242, 284, 
285, 308, 309, 311, 312-4, 

317, 318, 322, 324, 325, 339 

Abu Talib, 33, 34, 46, 51, 52, 

70, 73, 74, 80, 83, 93, 95, 

99, 127, 128 
Abu Talha, 208, 263 
Abu't Tamahan, 3 1 
Abwa, 33 
Adam, 87, 91, 92, 99, 109, 114, 

H5> T 33> 3 28 
Addas, 130 

'Adi, 319 

'Adi (Banu), 27, 50, 75, 289 

Afghanistan, 25 

Africa, 20, 25, 247, 260 

Ahabish, 105, 182, 220, 300 

Ahriman (Shades of), 6 

Aila, 37 

'Ai'sha, 128, 129, 145, 153, 158 
161, 162, 166, 204. 265, 269, 
271, 273, 275-83, 286, 287, 
289, 290-2, 294, 295, 319, 

321, 327, 335, 336, 338, 


Akhnas, 85 

Alexandria, 17 
Alhambra, 123 
'Ali ben Abi Talib, 52, 69, 70, 

73 74. 95, I45 H6, 153. 
180, 185, 186, 188, 192, 193, 

195-210, 221, 229, 240, 241, 
2 43~5> 2 8o, 286, 289, 290, 
302, 306, 310, 312, 314, 319, 
320, 336, 339 note, 340 note 

'Ali Sa'd ben Malik, 156 

'Alids, 340 note 

Allah, 15, 22, 34, 57,63, 71, 98 
112, 169, 172, 189, 191, 199, 
206, 214, 215, 218, 219, 228, 
230, 231, 237, 239, 240, 
257, 265, 266, 270, 272, 276, 
291, 301, 323, 328, 335, 338, 
339 note 

Amelekites, 48 

Amina (the Prophet' ; mother), 

3 . 2 ' 33 . 
Amina (Sa'id's wife), 98 

'Amir (Banu), 131, 232, 233, 

'Amir ben Fohai'ra, 147, 150 

'Amir ben el Hadhrami, 104, 184 

'Amir (the guide), 305 

Amos, 251 

'Amra bint Alkama el Harithia, 


' Amr ben el Ahtam, 323 
'Amr ben el 'Asi (the poet), 77, 

78, 102, 103, 311, 312, 319 
'Amr ben el Jomuh, 1 6 
'Amr (Khadija's uncle), 240, 241 
Anas ben en Nadhr, 226, 259 
Anas ben Malik, 208, 272, 273 
Anas (the servant), 284, 295 
Anjar, 222 



Antichrist, no, 120, 267 

Antidicomariamites, 117 

Antioch, 117 

Apocalypse of Adam, 116 

Apocrypha, 116 

Apollo, 120 

Apostles, 109 

'Aqaba of Mina, 141, 144., 145, 

171, 328, 333 
Aqanqal, 182, 185 
'Aqil, 52, 192 
Aquinas (Thomas), 260 
Arabia, 6, 7, n, 12, 21, 22, 25, 

29, 3 6 , 39 47, 5 1 , IQI , I0 4, 
105, 107, 116, 129, 154, 165, 

173, 176, 185, 188, 199, 

201, 207, 213, 215, 2l8, 236, 
237, 247, 259, 262, 295, 296, 

33, 334 
Arabs, vii, n, 12, 14, 17, 20, 

21, 24-6, 37, 38, 59, 63, 83, 
87, 91, 104, 108, 112, 124, 
131, 142, 154, 158, 161, 162, 
163, 165, 168-70, 175, 181, 

183-5, I93 213, 214, 216, 
220, 239, 248, 255, 266, 269, 

299, 39> 3ii, 322, 323, 327, 
33, 334 
Aram, 219 

Arians, 116 

Arnold, ix 

As'ad ben Zurara, 13, 1 5 

Asad (Banu), 27, 44, 75, 105 

Asia, 247 

'Asim ben Thabit, 209, 234 

'Asir (mountains), 45 

Asma, 71, 145, 147, 150, 152, 


Asma bint Merwan, 211 
'Atika, 157 

'Atika bint 'Abdelmottalib, 181 
Awali (district), 292 

Awf ben el Harith, 187, 209, 276 
Aws, 12, 15, 142, 155, 221, 

239, 243, 280 
Aws-Allah, 17, 223 
Azrail, 133, 338 

Baal, 218 
Babinski, x 
Badr, 28 

Badr (Battle of), 168, 171-94, 
197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 209, 

209, 211, 213, 220, 221, 226, 


Bahira, 37, 104 

Bakr (Banu), 275 

Ballanche, 246 

Barnabas, 116 

Barradh ben Qai's, 40, 41, 43 

Barthelemy, 120 

Basilidians, 117 

Bat'ha, 27, 28, 30, 76 

Bedouins, 25, 26, 28, 29, 31, 

32, 34, 45, 48, 93, n8, i5 
151, 152, 160, 163, 168, 169, 
175, 180, 198,233,234,235, 
236, 242, 251, 261, 262, 275, 
285, 300, 309, 311, 322, 323, 

324, 327, 334, 34 note 
Bell, ix 

Berulle, 357 

Bethlehem, 132 

Bible, 24,92, 104, 123,245,255, 

328, 331 note, 332 note 
Bibliander, 120 
Bilal, 8 1, 82, 190, 191, 259, 267, 

268, 306, 316 
Bir Ma'una, 233, 234 
Bishr ben el Barra', 307 
Bishr (the Qoraishite), 41 
Bodail, 313 
Bohran, 209 
Bokhari, vii, 141, 154 



Book of Enoch, 116 

Borai'da (Banu), 4, 152 

Borai'da (the Sheikh), 4 

Borai'ra, 280 

BorSq, 132, 135 

Bosra, 37, 201 

Bossuet, 260 

Boulainvilliers (Comte de), 120 

Bowat, 177 

Bremond (Abbe), 257 

Broglie (Abbe de), 120, 322 note 

Buddah, 94 

Byzantine Syria, 25 

Byzantines, 7, u, 17, 18, 19, 
26, 29, 37, 38, 49, 104, 107, 
io8,_ii7, 119, 220, 327, 330 

Byzantium, 58, 101, 104, 195 

Caesar, 28, 58, 80, 173, 238, 


Caetani, ix 
Canaan, 245, 248 
Carlyle, 120 
Carpocratians, 117 
Casanova, ix 
Catholic theology, 252 
Cato, 95 

Caussin de Perceval, 120 
Ceres, in 
Chaldea, 246 
Charcot, x 
Charlemagne, 120 
Chartres, 123, 330 
China, 25 
Chiroes, 106, 108 
Chosroes, 28, 106, 107, 108, 

175, 238, 301, 308 
Christ (see Jesus) 
Christianity, x, 7, 8, 17, 20, 95, 

101-24, 200, 297, 331 note 
Christians, viii, 5, 8, 9, 17, 18, 

2> 29, 35, 38,40, 53, 55, 56, 

58, 59, 63, 64, 76, 79, 82, 
89,91,95, 101, 103-13, 115, 
117, 118, 122, 124, 130, 164, 
I7 *73> 173 note, 194, 197, 
219, 247, 257, 261, 262, 267, 
297, 319, 323,331, 334 

Cicero, 95 

Collyridians, 117 

Collyridism, in 

Condren, 257 

Copts, 104 

Crecy, 185 

Damascus, 9, 10, 22, 164 

Daniel, 121 

Darius, 106 

David, 133 

Dawsites, 159, 198 

Dead Sea, 37 

De Castries, 120, 297 note 

Dhafar, 13 

Dhu Nowas, 20 

Dhu'l Faqar, 319 

Dhu'l Hala'ifa, 299, 321 

Dhulka'bat, 48 

Dhulkalosa, 48, 319 

Dhulmajaz, 38 

Diadorus (of Sicily) 

Dihya ben Khalifa, 253 

Dinet, ix 

Ditch (Battle of), 236-45, 299 

Docetes, 116 

Doraid, 323, 324 

Dozy, Jx, 1 20 

Droughty, 121 

Druse (tribe), 203 

Dumat el Jandal, 320 

Ebionites, 119 
Eden, 91, 172 
Egyptians, 109 
Egypt, 7, 107, 164, 165, 175 



El 'Abbas (ben Abdelmottalib), 
33. 5 J . 5 2 73. 105, 116, 136, 
181, 183, 189, 192, 197, 202, 

220, 221, 285, 312, 313, 314, 
316, 322, 324,335, 336,338, 

339 note, 340 note 
El 'Abbas ben 'Obada, 143, 144 
El 'Aci ben Hisham, 30, 182 
El Akhnas ben Sharif, 131 
El A'sha, 311 
El'Asi,78, 87 
El 'Asi ben Wall, 99 
ElAswad, 334, 335 
El Azhar, 95 
El Barra', 143, 144 
ElFals, 319 
El Ha'iqatan, 22 
El Hajjaj, 196 
ElHarith 209 276 
Elijah, 218, 246 
El Lat, 48, 57, 69, 81, 112, 129, 

195, 230, 300, 325 
El Madhiq, 193 
El Maqdisi, 2 3 
El Mut'im ben 'Adi, 131 
El 'Ozza, 48, 57, 69, 79, 81, 

112, 195, 230, 300, 320 

El Qoswa, 4, 329 
El Yaman, 224 
El Zodr, 208 
Emerson, 72 note 
Emessa (in Syria), 308 
En Nazia, 193 
Enoch, 133 
Eutychianism, 1 1 1 
Eutycheans, 116 
Ephrem, 116 
Es Safra, 193 
Es Suh, 157 
Ethiopia, 20 
Evangel, 331 note 
Eve, 328 

Exodus, 73 

Fadak (Oasis), 308 

Ears, 6 

Fatima, 50, 128, 195-210, 229, 

288, 289, 290, 312, 339 note, 

340 note 
Fez, 22 

Firdawsi, 93, 93 note 
Fihr (Banu), 75 
Foster, 121 

Gabriel (the Archangel), 49, 62, 
63, 66, 68, 73, 96, 102, 128, 
132, 135, 1 86, 231, 143, 344 

Gagnier, 120 

Gaudefroy-Demombynes, ix 

Gaul (Merovingian), 248 

Gehenna, 35 

Genesis, 332 note 

Gentiles, 113 

Germans, 330 

Ghassanides, 7, 58, 105, 292, 

39. 3 10 
Ghatafan (Banu), 216, 235, 239, 

241, 275 

Ghifar (Banu), 305 

God, 7, 10, 13, 15-17, 36, 38, 
56, 57, 59,61-70, 72, 74, 75 
78, 80, 82, 83, 86-92, 95, 96, 
98, 101, 102, 107-15, 118, 

121, 122, 126-30, 132-4, 134 

note, 135, 142-50, 158, 162, 
165-7, 170, 172-6, 184-90, 

193, 212, 2l8, 222, 228, 
230-2, 235, 238, 239, 247-51, 
254-61, 264-6, 271-4, 278, 
28r, 282, 286, 289, 291-4, 
297, 300-3, 305, 308, 309, 
312, 3H-6, 320, 322, 329, 

335. 33 6 . 337, 339 not 
Goethe, 246 



Gog and Magog, 266 

Gospels, 7, 58, 105, 292, 309, 

Greco-Persian War, 25, 28, 108, 

172, 309 
Greece, 106, 123 
Greeks, 28, 37, 107, 109, 194, 

3 IO 327 
Gregentius (Bishop), 21 
Grimme, ix 

Guibert de Nogent, 119 
Guillaume Postal, 120 

Habbab, 221 

Habbar ben el Aswad, 316 

Hadiths, vii, viii, x, xi, 1 19, 159, 

260, 331 
Hadramawt, 174 
Hafsa, 254, 269, 280, 283, 

> 335> 33 8 
Haggada, 116 

Hagar, 328 

Hajjaj, 115, 255 

Hakim, 313 

Hala, 287 

Haliba, viii 

Halima, 32 

Hallaj, 71 

Hamna, 279 

Hamra El Asad, 231 

Hamza, 33, 72, 97, 155, 177, 

185, 186, 207, 223, 227, 228, 

229, 231, 317 
Handhala, 229 
Hanifa (Banu), 79, 131 
Hanifs, x, 17 

Harb ben Omayya, 40, 41, 42 
Harith ben Hisham, 201 
Harith ben Talha, 225 
Hasan, 204, 206, 312 
Hassan ben Thabit, 200, 201, 

218, 225, 278, 282, 285 

Hashim, 27, 74, 85 
Hashim (Banu), 1 8 1 
Hashimites, 27, 51, 73, 80, 99, 

100, 189, 203, 335, 339 note 
Hatim, 319 
Hebrew (see Jews) 
Hegira, 19 note, 141-53, 161, 

165, 172, 204, 220, 237, 267, 

Heraclius, 107, 108, 172, 308, 

39 327 
Hijaz, 12, 17, 20, 21, 26, 40, 

56, 162, 173, 180, 218, 311, 

327, 33 

Hind, 76, 200, 222, 229, 317, 

Himyarite Empire, 20 

Himyarite Princes, 22 

Hira, 7, 39, 105 

Hobal, 48, 49, 56, 79, 195, 230, 


Hodai'biya, 299-320 
Hodhaiifa, 224 
Horns, 227 
Honai'n, 32133 
Horace, 25 
Hormuzd, 106 
Hosam, 204, 206 
Hottinger, 120 
Houdas, ix 

Howa'itib ben Abedl'pzza, 29 
Huart, ix 

Iblis, 99, 200 

Ibn el Hadrami, 179 

Ibn Hisham, viii, 41, 111,125, 


Ibn Khathal, 316 
Ibn Omm Maktum, 239, 253 
Ibn Sa'd, viii 
Ibn Sayyad, 266, 267 



Ibn Sirin, 156 

IbnTofail, 233 

Ibn Zubai'r, 23 

Ibrahim, 285 

Ibrahim (Sliman ben), ix 

Idris (see Enoch) 

'Ikrima, .188, 220, 223, 240, 
241, 316 

'Imram, 65 

Imrou'lqais, 104, 330 

India, 25, 249, 330 

Innocent III, 120 

Irak, 48, 92, 209, 332 

Irving (Washington), vii 

'Isa (see Jesus) 

Isaiah, 24, 248 

Isfendiars, 93 

Is'haq, viii 

Ishmael, 49, 315, 332 note 

Islam, ix, 15, 1 6, 71, 77, 97, 98, 
101-24, 127, 128, 131, 146, 
152, 154, 162, 168, 170, 172, 

174, 193, 202, 221, 223, 228, 
236, 238, 240, 242, 255, 257, 
26l, 265, 266, 268, 277, 286, 

295, 297 note, 299, 303, 308, 
3.20, 329, 330, 332 note, 334, 
339 note, 340 note 

Islamites, 21, 264, 322 

Isnads, viii 

Israel, 142 

Jabarites, 260 

Jabir, 238 

Jabr, 104 

Jacob, 281, 297 

Jacob's rock, 132 

Jacobites, 1 1 6 

Jadhima (Banu), 320 

Ja'far ben Abi Talib, 52, xor, 102 

Jandal, 303 

Jansenists, 260 

Jeddah, 49 

Jeremiah, 251 

Jerusalem, 5, 10, 107, 108, 132, 

i35 r 36, i54>2i9> 33 1 
Jesus, ix, 1 8, 19 note, 33, 47, 

48, 78,95, 110-17, 121, 132, 

J 33> J 34 note > J 3 6 > J 73> 2 49 
258, 267 

Jews, 5, n, 12, 16, 20, 21, 29, 
37, 56, 63, 63, 64, 79, 96, 
102, 103, 108 10, 11316, 

124, 142, 154-6, 167, 170, 

172, 201, 204, 211-19, 222 
223, 232-4, 236, 237, 241, 
242-4, 249, 266, 267, 299, 

John (son of Zacharias), 136 
John (the Baptist), 102, 133 
Jonah, 92, 130, 250 
Joseph de Maistre, 171 
Joseph (Jacob's son), n, 315 
Joshua, 248 
Jowatha, 22 
Jubai'r ben Mut'im, 227 
Judaism, 16, no 
Jundeshapur, 8 
Justinius I, 20 
Juwai'ria, 276 

Ka'ba, 13, 20-23, 27, 28, 30, 31, 

33> 34-> 4-7-9> 5 6 > 66 > 77 > 
79, 80, 83,97, 100, 105, 107, 

125, 136, 147, 181, 194, 195, 
219,290,299,303,315, 316, 

Ka'b ben el Ashraf, 201, 213- 

15, 218 

Ka'b ben Malik, 17, 200, 218 
Ka'b ben Zuhai'r, 323 
Ka'b (the Jew), 116 
Kalb (Banu), 48 



Kashkar, 8 

Kelab ben Talha, 225 

Kesra (see Chosroes) 

Khadija, 44-52 59-61 63-6 

68-70, 105, 127, 128, 146, 

147, 202, 269, 286, 287, 319 
Kha'ibar, 35, 216, 234, 236, 284, 

299-320, 305, 307, 335, 336 
Khaldun, ix 
Khalid ben el Walid, 164, 185, 

186, 196, 220, 224, 285, 300, 

310, 312, 315, 320 
Kharja, 228 
Khath'am (Banu), 48 
Khazraj (Banu), 12, 142, 155, 

167, 213, 2l6, 221, 222, 243, 

277, 281 

Khoba'ib, 173, 209, 210 

Khowailid, 44 

Khoza'a (Banu), 196, 302, 313, 


Kilab (Banu), n 
Kinana (Banu), 40, 42, 220 
Kinana ben er Rabi', 284, 306, 


Koran (see also Quotations from 
Koran), vii, x, xi, 15, 16, 
26, 53, 69, 71, 81, 92, 99, 

102, 104, 105, 107-13, 115, 

116, 119-23, 126, 127, 131, 

H3> H4> i5 r > r 59> l6 7> 168, 
170-2, 174, 194, 199, 200, 
207, 232, 234, 239, 245, 248, 
249, 251, 254, 255, 257, 
260-3, 267, 268, 272-4, 282, 
286, 294-6, 318, 331, 331 
note, 332 note, 334, 336 

Labid (the poet), 41 
Lakhmide, 7, 105 
Lamartine, x 
Lammens, ix, x, xi 

Lateran Council, 112 

Legends of the Saints, 116 

Leibnitz, 261 

Lesseps (de), 49 

Lihyan (Banu), 209, 319 

Lot, 92 

Lote-Tree (of Heaven), 133 

Madinat en Nabi (see also Medina 

4, 154-70 

Madbah (Banu), 151 
Magians, 6, 8, 107 
Mahom, 120 
Mahometans, ix, 22, 37, 100, 

101, 102, 103, 260 
Maimuna, 285, 311, 335 
Maisara, 45 
Majna, 38 
Maktam, 136 
Makhzum (Banu), 46, 75 
Makhzumites, 27, 44, 84, 85, 

105, 198, 289, 290 
Malai'ka bint Dawud, 319 
Malebranche, 120 
Malik ben el Acwam, 228 
Malik ben Sinan, 229 
Manat, 13, 16, 48, 112, 315 
Manawat, 79 
Maracci, 120 
Marfais, ix 
Marcionites, 117 
Marcus Aurelius, 95 
Margoliouth, ix 
Maria (the Copt), 285, 286, 291, 

292, 309 
Mariamites, 117 
Maritain (M. S.), 173 note 
Marwa, 104 
Mary, 33, 48, 102, 103, no, 

in, 115, 117 
Massignon, ix, x, 134 note, 251 

note, 298 note 



Mas'udi, viii 
Mazdians, 267 

Mecca, xi, 3, 12, 13, 19, 20-2, 
24-6, 28, 30-3, 38, 40, 41, 

44, 47-9' 5i 52, 54' 5^, 59' 
70, 71, 76, 77, 80, 82, 89, 

9 J > 97, 99> I0 4~7' 12 5' I2 6, 
129, 131, 132, 135, 143, 146, 

H7 i53' 155' !5 6 ' l6l l68 ' 
176-83, 186, 189-91, 194, 

198, 202, 204, 208, 209, 213, 

219, 221, 224, 226-8, 231, 
232, 234, 235, 236, 248, 
250,252, 255, 275, 276, 289, 

2 99' 320, 321, 323, 325, 339 

Medina, ir, 19, 48, 129, 153-7, 
161, 166-70, 172, 176, 178- 
80, 183, 193, 194, 200-2, 

204, 2O7, 208, 211-13, 220- 
23, 225, 226, 231-5, 237, 
239, 241-4, 248, 250, 255, 
263, 266, 269, 276, 277, 28l, 
284, 287, 292, 293, 299, 
304-11, 314, 316, 319, 321, 

3 2 3 327, 328, 334, 339 note > 
340 note 

Merwa (hills of), 328 
Mesjid (square), 50 
Mespotamia, 8, 25, 58 
Messiah, no, 113 
Michon (Abbe), 331 note 
Midian country, 11,45 
Mishna, 116 
Mihran, 286 
Mistah, 278, 279, 282 
Mo'adh ben Jabal, 254 
Mo'adz, 1 88 
Mo'awia, 325, 339 note 
Moghala (Banu), 266 
Mohammad, xii 

Mohammad 'Abdu, ix note, 109, 

246, 322 note 
Mohammad ben Maslama, 213, 


Molinist, 260 
Mongolian (invasions), 332 
Monogamy, 297 
Monophysites, 8, 116, 117 
Monophysitism, in 
Montaigne, 332 
Montesquieu, 120, 297 note 
Montet, ix 
Moqawqis (of Egypt), 285, 286, 

291, 292, 309 
Morocco, 39 
Moses, 12, 65, 66, 78, 92, 99, 

109, 132-4, 134 note, 135, 

136, 249, 284 
Moslems (see Mussulmans) 
Mostaliq (Banu), 275, 276 
Mosul, 10 
Mt. Abi Qubais, 54 
Mt. Aja, 319 

Mt. 'Arafa, 38, 303, 328, 330 
Mt. Hajum, 3 1 5 
Mt. Hira, 53, 54, 59, 62, 67, 

146, 33 

Mt. Qo 'Aiqi'an, 23 

Mt. Sinai, 89, 106, 132 

Mt. Thawr, 146 

Muir, ix 

Munafi ben Talha, 225 

Muqai'as, 316 

Mus'ab ben 'Oma'ir, 13-15, 142, 
176, 228 

Musailima, 228, 334, 335 

Mussulmans, ix, 104, 106 rr, 
113, 116, 118-21, 123, 125, 
126, 136, 142-4, 149, 153, 
155, 156, 168, 172-5, 179, 
180, 182-7, 191, 192, 194, 

200, 202, 204, 208-12, 215, 



2l6, 2l8, 219, 222-6, 228-33, 
236, 237, 239, 241, 242, 244, 
248, 257, 258, 261, 262, 266, 
267, 272, 275, 276, 297, 

299-303? 35> 38, 3i-i3 
316, 317, 324, 327, 331, 332, 
332 note, 334 
Mu'ta, 297-320 

Nabigha Dhobyani, 104 

Nadhr ben el Harith, 92, 96, 194 

Nadhir (Banu), 12,208, 233,234 

236, 243, 270 
Najran, 20, 105, 323, 334 
Nakhla, 38, 41, 48, 57, 131, 178, 

182, 184, 320 
Namus, 65, 66 
Nasiba bint Ka'b, 226 
Nawfal (Banu), 27 
Nawfal, 240, 241 
Nazarites, 117 
Negus of Abyssinia, 20, 21, 82, 

100-3, 164, 165, 284, 301 
Nedj, 26, 40, 45, 48, 163, 232-4, 

236, 245 

Nejran, 7, 39, 164 
Nero, 95, 297 
Nestorians, 7, 103, 117 
New Testament, 115 
Nicolas de Cuse, 120 
Ninevah, 130 
Nisibis, 8 

Noah, 92, 109, 133 
Noldeke, ix 
No'man (Lakhmide King of 

Hira), 40, 42 
Nosai'ris (Banu), 203 

Obai'da ben el Harith, 177, 185, 

186, 188 
'Oba'idallah ben 'Adi, 227 

'Obai'dallah ben Jansh, 57, 58, 


Obayy ben Ka'b, 208, 254, 267 
Obayy ben Khalaf, 81, 86 
'Odhra (Banu), 3 5 
Ohod, 165, 176, 219, 220-35 

236, 270, 337 

'Okadh, 25, 38-42, 84, 105 
Olympic Games, 39 
'Oma'ir ben el Hamam, 186, 187 
'Omai'r ben Wahab, 177, 211 
'Omar ben el Khattab, 27, 58, 

82, 98, 99, 153, 156-9, 166, 

192, 211, 221, 226, 230, 241, 
252, 254, 260, 262, 266, 267, 
269, 276, 277, 289, 290-3, 
295, 301, 303, 304, 307, 312, 
313, 316,318,331,335,373, 

339 note, 340 note 
Omayya ben Abi's-salt, x, 17, 18, 

42, 58, 200 
Omayya ben Khalaf, 77, 149, 

183, 190, 191 
Ommayad Caliphate, 330 
Ommaya (Banu), 27, 155, 177, 

185, 340 note 
Omm Ai'man, 225, 165 
Omm Anmar 227, 
Omm Hani, 136 
Omm Habiba, 58, 105, 284, 312 
Omm Jamil, 75, 80 
Omm Kalthum, 50, i 57, 202 
Omm Selma, 250, 269, 28890, 

292, 293, 304 
Omm Solaim, 272 
'Oqba, 81, 83,95,96, 194 
Orient, 17, 25,. 55, in, 116, 

?97> 33 1 . 
Orientalists, ix 

Ormuzd, 6 
'Orqam, 97 
'Orwa ben er Rahhal, 40, 41 



Orwa (the Thaquifite), 300, 301 

Osaid ben Khozair, 1 31 5 

Osama, 280, 335, 337 

Oshai'ra, 177, 179 

'Otba (Banu), 28 

'Otba (of the Banu 'Abdel- 

manaf), 50, 76, 200, 222 
'Otba ben Rabi'a, 27, 80, 84, 130, 

183, 185 
'Othman, 76, 115, 155, 157, 


339 note, 340 note 
'Othman ben el Huwalrith, 57, 

58, 80, 316 
'Othman ben Mathun, 94 

Paganism, 17, 121 

Palestine, 58 

Parthenon, 330 

Pascal, 1 20, 262 

Pentateuch, 103 

People of the Book, 5, 38, 79, 

105, 108, 118, 121, 331 
Perceval (Caussin de), ix 
Persia, or Persians, 7, 8, 25, 28, 

29, 106, 107, 172, 194, 247, 

2?3> 33 
Persian Emperor, 8 

Persian Gulf, 25, 334 

Peru, 25 

Pharoahs, 49, 189, 249 

Pharisees, 76, 95 

Pierre le Venerable, 120 

Pilate, 56 

Pliny, 25 

Polygamy, 297 

Prideaux, 120 

Protoevangelium of James, 116 

Proust (Marcel), 70 

Psalms, 103, 267 

Qadarites, 260 

Qainoqa (Banu), 12, 156, 212, 


Qaisar (see Caesar) 
Qais ben 'Adi, 50 
Qarada, 209 
Qaraouyine, 95 
Qasim, xii, 50 
Qatila, 194 
Qayla (Banu), 3 
Qodald, 48, 319 
Qorai'dha (Banu), II, 12, 237, 

239, 241, 243, 275, 284, 306, 
Qoraishites, 12, 13, 21, 246, 

28, 31, 33> 3 8 > 4i-4 46-9> 
51, 56, 58,71,75,76,80,81, 
85, 87,91,92,95,96, 100-2, 
104, 107, 126, 130, 145, 148, 
149, 151, 172, 177-84, 186-9, 

192, 193, 195-8, 20O, 201, 
208, 209, 213, 220, 222-5, 
228-31, 236, 240-2, 254, 
255, 275, 291, 299, 300, 301, 
304, 308, 310, 312, 313, 
317-9, 322, 328 

Qosay, 41 

Qotham, xii 

Quba, 153,220 

Quotations from Koran, 33, 55> 
84, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 97, 

101, 102, 107, 109, III, 112, 
114, Il6, 122, 123, 125, 134, 
171, 172, 174, 179, 211, 236, 

3 2 9 

Qusay, 225 

Quss ben Sa'ida, 32, 39, 40, 105 

Rabi'a (Banu), 187 
Rabi'a ben Ka'b, 48 
Rabi'a ben Omayya, 328 
Rabi'a ben Rafi', 324 



Rahath, 319 

Rakusians, 117 

Rawna (wells of ), 1 5 5 

Raymond Lull, 1 20 

Red Sea, 37, 150 

Renan, 120 

Reville (A), 297 note 

Rihana, 245, 284 

Robertson, 331 note 

Roda, 48 

Roland, 120 

Roman de Mahomet, 120 

Roman Empire, 173, 262 

Romans, 25, 35, 95 

Roqai'a, 50, 76, 82, 1 57, 194, 202 

Rudolph de Ludheim, 120 

Rum (see Byzantines) 

Sabellians, 116 

Sabians, 109 

Sa'd (Banu), 32 

Sa'd ben Abi Waqqas, 71, 77, 

177, 221, 224, 225 
Sa'd ben Mo'adh, 13, 15, 186, 

239, 240, 241, 243, 345 
Sa'd ben 'Obada, 168, 281, 314, 

339 note, 3^0 note 
Safa (hill of), 75, 78, 97, 98, 316, 

Safiya, 284, 288, 289, 306, 307, 

Safwan ben el Mu'thal, 278, 279, 

281, 282, 283 
Safwan ben Omayya, 28, 29, 

30, 195, 196, 211, 318 
Sahm (Banu), 27, 99, 152 
Sa'ida (Banu), 339 note 
Sa'id (Amina's husband), 98, 99, 

Saint Hilaire, 120 

Saint Theresa, 7 1 
Sakran ben 'Amr, 129 

Salama (Banu), 16 

Salih (the prophet), 36 

Sana'a, 20, 174, 201, 334 

Saracens, 123 

Sarat (mountains), 45 

Sassanide Persia, 8, 108, 175 

Satan, 109 

Sawab, 224 

Sawda, 105, 129, 161, 269, 288, 

289, 291 
Scholl, 1 20 
Scriptures, vii, 58, 64, 113, 

Seleucia-Ctesiphon, 8 

Selma, 270 

Selma ben Maslama, 180 

Selman (the Persian), 3-19, 237 

Sendad, 48 

Sha'iba ben Rabi'a, 80, 129, 130, 

183, 185, 186, 196 
Shi'ites, 255, 340 note 
Shirin, 285, 309 
Siba', 227, 228 
Silkan Abu Naila, 213-15 
Sira, viii 

Snouck Hurgronje, vii, ix 
Socrates, 173 
Sodom, 92 
Sohail ben 'Amr, 131, 301, 302, 


Song of Antioch, 120 
Song of Roland, 120 
Sokran, 269 

Solai'm (Banu), 208, 233, 320 
Solomon, 132, 133 
Soraqa ben Malik, 151 
Sowa', 319 
Spain, 330 
Sprenger, ix, x, 120 
St. Epiphany, r 1 1 
St. John, 257 
St. John of Damascus, 112, 119 

35 2 


St. Luke, 141 

St.Paul,9r,94/w/<f, 114, 115, 171 

St. Stephen, 173 

Strabo, 20, 24 

Surma, vii, 260, 267 

Sunnites, 255, 340 note 

Syria, 9, 12, 24, 26, 34, 38, 51, 
58, 59, 105, 107, 108, 152, 
164, 172, 177, 179, 180, 209, 
213,227,234,235,275, 305, 
37> 39>326, 33 335 337 

Tahari, viii 

Tabuk, 155, 321-33 

Tai'f, 17, 22, 30, 32, 38, 45, 48, 

129, 131, 143, 178 
Taim (Banu), 48, 323, 325 
Taimite, 70 

Talha ben 'Obaldallah, 71 
Talmud, 116 
Tamim (Banu), 323, 334 
Tarafa, 104 
Tayy (Banu), 319 
Termagant, 120 
Thaqif (Banu), 48, 323, 325 
Thaqifite (mountains), 22, 129, 

Thamudites, 36, 326 
Tihama, 179, 220, 236 
Trinity, in, 118, 120 
Turks, 332 

UrofChaldea, 38 

Valentinians, 117 
Vandals, 330 
Vives, 330 
Voltaire, 120, 121 

Wadd, 320 

Wadi Idham, II 

Wadil Qora, n, 35, 308 

Wahshi, 227 

Wail (Banu), 48 

Walid ben Moghira, 28, 30, 80, 

84,94, 197,301,325 
Waqidi, viii 
Waraqa ben Nawfal, 46, 57, 58, 

64, 65, 66, 104, 1 1 6, 240, 241 
Weil, ix 

Ya'la ben Omayya, 252 

Yahya (see John the Baptist) 

Yamama, 228, 334 

Yasar, 198 

Yathrib, 3, 4, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 

i9> 33> 5 6 >9 6 > HI H2, H3 

145, 146, 152, 153 
Yemen, 7, 12, 20, 21, 24-6, 40, 

" Yemenite Ka'ba ",319 
Yezid, 198 

Zacharias, 102, 136 
Zaidben'Amr, 56, 57, 58,103,1 57 
Zaid ben Haritha, 51, 70, 105, 

131, 146, 153, 194, 207, 270, 

271,272, 309, 310, 335 
Zaid ben Thabit, 219, 244, 253, 

254, 276 
Zainab bint Jansh, 50, 202, 266, 

269-74, 275, 279, 280, 288, 

289, 290, 295 
Zainab bint el Harith, 307 
Zakkum (tree of), 90 
Zam'a ben el As wad, 50, 126 
Zemzem (wells of), 23, 31, 47, 

78, 197, 316 
Zobath, xii 
Zoha'ir, 17 
Zohra (Banu), 27 
Zoroaster, 7 
Zubai'r ben Abi Omayya, 125, 

126, 152, 156, 175, 188, 244, 

Zubai'r ben 'Awwam, 44, 71, 82, 


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